Malaysian trans woman who fled to Australia left children behind


nur sajat malaysia australia transgender woman
Image: Instagram

Malaysian transgender woman Nur Sajat, who fled to Australia after Malaysian authorities targeted her, has spoken out about her arrest and her distressing decision to leave her children behind.

Sajat is a cosmetics entrepreneur and Australia granted her asylum from Thailand after she fled Malaysia.

The 36-year-old left the country after authorities charged her with insulting Islam by dressing in women’s clothing at a private religious event in 2018.

Malaysia’s dual-track system of Islamic Sharia Law and civil laws mean Malaysian authorities consider her male.

Islamic law strictly bans men from dressing as women. Such offences carry a maximum three-year prison sentence under the laws.

Sajat is now in Australia, and has told the BBC about Malaysian authorities’ harsh treatment during her arrest.

“I had to run away, I was treated harshly… I was hit, pushed, handcuffed, all in front of my parents and family,” she said.

“[It left me] ashamed and sad. I gave them my cooperation, but they still did that to me.

“Maybe it was because they see me as a transgender woman, so they didn’t care if I was held, beaten, stamped on.

“We trans women have feelings too. We deserve to live our lives like normal people.”

Family left behind in Malaysia

Nur Sajat also said she’s “distraught” at being separated from her adopted children, who she left behind with family in Malaysia.

“I’ve never been separated from them in the past. But this year I was separated from them for eight or nine months,” she said.

“I couldn’t contact them, or talk to them.”

She went on, “I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my home country.

“Because I believe they won’t let transgender people live peacefully in Malaysia. To me, when I’m [in Australia], I’m freer to be myself.

“As a transgender woman, and Muslim, I believe I have the right to express my religion in my own way.

“There is no reason for them to punish me as if they are doing God’s work.”

Religious Affairs Minister denies Nur Sajat’s identity

Malaysia’s Religious Affairs Minister Idris Ahmad spoke about Sajat’s case earlier this year.

Referring to her with male pronouns, Ahmad suggested there was “no problem” if Sajat “admits doing wrong and is willing to return to [her] true nature.”

“We do not want to punish [her], we just want to educate [her],” he said.

However human rights groups say discrimination against transgender Malaysians is widespread.

Then-Religious Affairs Minister Mohamad Al-Bakri caused outrage last year when he gave “full license” to Islamic authorities to arrest and “educate” transgender people.

Local group Justice for Sisters said the comments would lead to both police and vigilantes targeting trans women.

The group also said the authorities’ suggestion of “educating” trans people refers to debunked and dangerous “conversion therapy”.

“These practices are forms of torture given the magnitude of harm on the individual and also their loved ones,” the group said.

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