Congrats to Nisha Ayub–A Person of Courage

April 7, 2016

Congrats to Nisha Ayub–A Person of Courage

by Azrul Mohd Khalib

There are many descriptions and faces of courage and bravery. This week, we add a new one to the long list with the recognition of Nisha Ayub, one of 14 women from around the world to receive recognition as a recipient of the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.

The last person from this country to receive the award was Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan in 2009.

Nisha faces the constant threat of discrimination and persecution simply for existing as herself. Once imprisoned for three months, she suffered and endured sexual abuse and humiliation while in detention. She has also survived sexual assault in prison. Her story, like those of many other transgender persons in our country, is filled with much heartache, pain and horror.

But despite it all, Nisha has persevered and instead drawn strength from her experiences to become a human rights defender and advocate for the transgender community.

She has come a long way to becoming the first person from this community to win this prestigious honour. It’s an immensely proud moment for those who work in the Malaysian human rights field, particularly those championing the protection of sexual minorities. I am privileged to know and count her as a friend.

Her example reminds us of the need to acknowledge that it is our right to be responsible for our own bodies, to be free from discrimination, violence and injustice, and to be respected for who we are, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, age, class, ethnicity or beliefs.

The abuse and humiliation of transgender persons during arrest, detention and imprisonment continue to occur. There have been incidences of serious physical assault, extortion, humiliation, trauma and even death. Many have lost their livelihoods as a result of harassment and prosecution. We are too often quiet and are more accepting of these circumstances. Why is that?

Malaysian transgender activist Nisha Ayub receives the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. ― Screengrab from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur's Twitter accountMalaysian transgender activist Nisha Ayub receives the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. ― Screengrab from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur’s Twitter account

Hearing some of their stories and sometimes seeing the results of the assaults and abuse, is often hard and not for the faint-hearted. Even worse is when many of these acts were committed by those filled with religious zeal and moral righteousness.

For too long, injustice towards people like Nisha has been committed, tolerated and even accepted.Are we not concerned? Do we not care? Is there a veil of silence when the rights of sexual minorities are violated?

The Malaysian Federal Constitution contains the fundamental guarantee which exists to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority. Yet the reality is very different.

Continued selective and institutionalised persecution based on what is worn by those who are transgender, have violated and deprived them of their rights to live with dignity, to have freedom of movement, to earn a livelihood and to have equal protection under the law.

They often suffer from the fact that even stepping out of their homes to earn a livelihood, socialise or go to places of worship, could result in their arrest, detention and prosecution. Worse, is that their very existence has been denied and criminalised.

Nisha reminds us of the need to have platforms which encourages open discussion, dialogue and debate. Silencing such discourse is equal to ignoring the existence of sexual minorities and wishing them away by closing our eyes, plugging our ears and keeping our mouths shut.

Silence solves nothing and if there is anything to be ashamed about, it is our continued inability to discuss the issues of sex and sexuality as mature adults.This must change for all our sakes.

6 thoughts on “Congrats to Nisha Ayub–A Person of Courage

  1. This will inspire jawi, jakim etc to arrest her on even frivolous opportunities.

    I pray for her safety and well being

  2. Wah liao..! The Local Ragheads will be raging no end! Testosterone fueled Musth!
    Fatwa and Raids to the left, right and center. They forgot the back and the top.
    Malu lah.. All that Saudi ‘Donations’ going to waste.
    I heard from a Proctologist friend that Ragheads are very prone to “Buasir” (Pile or hemorrhoids). Why is that?

    Well done Girl! San Diego here you go..
    Being who and what you are, depends very much on where and when you are.

  3. Azrul, thanks for the very enlightened article. For a start lets take the word, pondan out of our vocabulary and the buts of our male jokes!

  4. They are human beings too and they should be given a place to live like any other living thing on this planet. The world recognize them but not our people of religious extremists who seem to condemn them.

    One would not realize the feelings of human life unless it happened in ones family.
    Congratulations on your timely achievement to prove the world and in particular these religious bigots like Jawi that you are part of the human society God has created. It was not your fault to be born as transgender that another human should understand. I am happy for your to have bestowed this title > A PERSON OF COURAGE.

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