PETALING JAYA: Human rights experts view the plan for harsher punishments against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community a violation of basic human rights and a political ploy to soft-pedal away from the real issues affecting the country.

An international inter-religious expert warns of the danger of societal degeneration while a counselling psychologist points out that homosexuality is not considered a psychological disorder anymore.

They were commenting on Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary’s statement that the government intends to hand out heavier punishments against LGBT by increasing the sentencing limits in the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355).

Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju) founder Siti Kasim said the government has been pushing for the increment of the punishment for years.

“I believe this situation is being politicised as there is no need for this. We have bigger things to worry about,” she said.

Siti added that while cross-dressing is considered a crime here in Malaysia, it is harmless, and pushing for harsher laws against those who cross-dress is ridiculous.

“I believe the Syariah Court should return to its old ways and focus on familial issues such as marriages, inheritance and divorces rather than policing how people live their lives,” she told theSun.

The human rights lawyer said as long as one is regarded as a human being then one is entitled to all the basic human rights listed down under the United Nations.

International inter-religious expert Ustaz Nurul Haq Shahrir said in the Federal Territories, these “wrongdoings” are spelt out by Part IV of Act 559 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act 1997, namely “offences relating to decency” that include incest, illicit sexual intercourse, sodomy and male person posing as a woman (Section 20-29).

“Note that cross-dressing is also a crime in Malaysia. Section 28 of the same Act mentioned earlier states ‘Any male person who, in any public place, wears a woman’s attire and poses as a woman for immoral purposes shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both’.

“With transgenderism, the play-acting, the imaginary element, is sometimes taken a major step beyond cross-dressing with the attempted physical transformation of the male into a female, or the female into a male,” the Islamic scholar said.

Counselling psychologist Dr Gerard Louis said homosexuality is not considered a psychological disorder anymore.

“The DSM-5 — a manual for assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders — does not conclude it as a mental disorder. From the DSM-3 onwards, homosexuality was removed and that implies that for the last 50 years, extensive research has shown that homosexuality is very much a part of our genes.

“From a psychological perspective, I can say that this cannot be considered a disorder and if the Malaysian government is going against this group, it is purely based on religious principles and not from a psychological perspective,” he said.

Coordinator of the Lawyers for Liberty Zaid Malek said the group is appalled by the government’s intention.

“Malaysian Muslims are still in a state of shock and confusion over the 40-year-long halal meat cartel scandal that was exposed quite recently, yet the spotlight is again cast on LGBT instead,” he said.