Thursday, November 27, 2008

Puan Noriah Kasnon Shares About Getting Mak Nyahs Off The Streets.

We transgenders in Malaysia may have an unlikely friend sitting at Parliament proceedings in Women, Family and Community Development Ministry Deputy Minister, Puan Noriah Kasnon. Even though one of her core works is to get transgender sex workers off the streets, her efforts in helping them secure jobs and equipping them with work skills should not go unnoticed. However, there are some obstacles. She was at the Parliament yesterday. This was how it went:

WHY do lelaki lembut (effeminate men) become mak nyah (transvestites)?

This question was posed by Datuk Halimah Mohd Sadique (BN-Tenggara) to Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Noriah Kasnon in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Noriah said she did not have the answer because the ministry did not have a study on the matter. Besides, there has been no other study on the number of effeminate men who ended up being transvestites.

“I’m sorry we do not have the figure as this group (effeminate men) has yet to become our target group. And we have not made any study on this group. But InsyaAllah (God willing), we will try to look into this matter in future," Noriah said.

“Actually, I think, it all started from education at home. And also peer group interactions, the strong influence of today’s borderless technology as well as frustrations from past relations with the opposite sex."

Halimah also asked whether the ministry has failed in its rehabilitation programmes resulting in people in this situation going back to their previous activities even after going through rehabilitations.

To this, Noriah said the programmes for mak nyah were not a total failure.

“This group has a very low self-esteem. They are afraid to be approached and always worried about the social stigma that has never stopped against them," she said.

“It is difficult for them to quickly come back to the right path even with the help and social service support from our centres."

Noriah said although there is still a lot to be done, many of the mak nyah have realised their mistakes and started to take up classes to build up their skills such as
in sewing and handicraft, as well as working at the cosmetic sections in the shopping complexes.

She also lamented that the ministry did not get any support from the corporate sector and suggested that they take up the issue as a corporate social responsibility.

Earlier, Noriah told Dr Lo’ Lo’ Mohd Ghazali (PAS-Titiwangsa) the ministry provides social support to those in the community who need its help, including women who have gone astray, and mak nyah.

For girls below 18 exposed to or are involved in immoral sexual activities, the ministry provides protection in an institution called Taman Seri Puteri.

The Social Welfare Development also has allocated a launching grant of up to RM2,700 each for those interested to start small-time businesses, she said.

My hope is that Puan Noriah would take into consideration the latest biological evidences of mak nyahs to put into the equation rather than relying on dogmas about environmental causes, and know not all mak nyahs are transvestites, and also consider empowering while affirming the mak nyah community to move ahead in their lives. We are fortunate to have a leader like her.

Yuki’s Choice Readings:
Of course, there would still be
ignorant people who would not give themselves a chance to understand (he wrote in malay language, so you can get a picture where he is coming from).
And The Star being a goverment controlled newspaper will always downplay
everything about our progress (soft men? soft men?! I think they had never seen a rough girl just like me).

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