ON 23 October 2008, the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia issued a fatwa saying that tomboyism, where a girl behaves or dresses in what is seen as a boyish manner, is forbidden by Islam. According to the council chairman, Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin, this decision was made because — in their reasoning — young women who behave like men will engage in lesbian sex.
We, as rakyat Malaysia, reject these views and wish to express our solidarity and sympathy with those affected by such declarations. This letter is a statement of our principled stand as the people of this nation, regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, or political belief.
1. My body, my choice
This is simply another attempt to control women’s bodies and how women express themselves. Each and every woman has the right to express herself freely, as does everyone else, as guaranteed under human rights standards our country is bound to fulfil.
2. Regressive and impractical policies
Telling a woman that she cannot wear certain types of clothing because she will look “masculine” is an archaic notion. Furthermore, who decides what is “masculine” or “acceptable” in society?
3. Discriminatory stereotypes
Do we still tell women that they have to be “feminine”, quiet, demure and modest? We may as well tell women not to vote, that their sole responsibility is to take care of the home and raise their children! The fatwa is an example of how women continue to be subjected to discriminatory stereotypes of how they should look and behave. The state should not regulate the private lives of individuals. By continuing to perpetuate discriminatory stereotypes, the government is not promoting, fulfilling or respecting its commitment of equality between women and men.
4. Appearance is not an indicator of sexual orientation
A person’s outward appearance and his or her sexual orientation are distinct and separate. The council’s views are misinformed and based on outdated stereotypes. A woman who has short hair and [is deemed] “masculine” may be a married mother of two, and a feminine woman may be a lesbian.
5. Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual persons
The views expressed by the council reflect a deeper discrimination against anyone who does not conform with what is considered “mainstream” and also anyone who does not fit into a stereotypical heterosexual relationship. Everyone has the right to form loving relationships with the person of their choice, regardless of their sex and the sex of their partner.
Food Not Bombs Kuala Lumpur
Cecilia Ng, Malaysia
Cheneille Neo Ming Yi, Malaysia
Dahlia Martin, Malaysia
Eugene Ch’ng, Malaysia
Lainie Yeoh, Malaysia
Lee Wei San, Malaysia
Lee Jia Hui, Harvard College, USA
Leow Mei Chern, Malaysia
Mohd Rizman, Malaysia
Nurul Amani Faizal, Malaysia
Puan llli Farhana, Malaysia
Puan Azreen Madzlan, Malaysia
Shikeen Arif, Malaysia
Thilaga Sulathireh, Malaysia
Wan Azhar Bin Wan Ahmad, Malaysia
Wong Chai Yi, Malaysia
Yusmar Mohd Yusof, Malaysia
Zedeck Siew, Malaysia
Note: Lainie Yeoh and Zedeck Siew are staff of The Nut Graph.