Thilaga Sulathireh, Malaysian LGBTI human rights defender, in the limelight

April 27, 2014

The ISHR Newsletter of 24 April carries an interesting portrait of Malaysian human rights defender Thilaga Sulathireh. She states that she initially joined the struggle for LGBTI rights in Malaysia in response to her own experience of discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. She now devotes herself to promoting and protecting the rights of others. The violence and discrimination inflicted on the LGBTI community in Malaysia, particularly on trans people, strengthened Thilaga’s determination to promote transgender rights, and challenge patriarchal norms and oppressive religious traditions and values.

As the founder of several LGBTI campaigns, such as Justice for Sisters,Thilaga and her colleagues aim at raising awareness about the violence experienced by the LGBTI community. Together with the trans community they organise workshops and performances, which aim to raise both awareness and funds. Most often these events are conducted in private or semi-public spaces.
The remainder of the article describes the up and downs in trying to organise awareness raising activities in a climate of repression (banning of the festival Seksualiti Merdeka in 2011; the banning of the NGO coalition COMANGO [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/comango/], of which Thilaga is a member, and which engaged with the Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia).
……Thilaga’s hope lies in the small steps, the small successes. Because the Government does not deliver any hope for change in the near future, her own hope for change is through a bottom-up approach, at the level of the people rather than at an institutional level. As much as there is a need to change the Government’s view, there is also a great need to change public perception, she says. Thilaga also has hope that Malaysia will not follow in the footsteps of States such as Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, in criminalising homosexuality. She points to Malaysia’s will to become an economically developed nation by 2020 and suggests that Malaysia’s desire for economic development will hold it back from ostracising itself from the international community through such a regressive step.

Thilaga Sulathireh: Malaysian LGBTI human rights defender | ISHR.

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