Malaysia Got Our Human Rights Reviewed!

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Well, if you didn’t know, yesterday 8th November 2018 – at 9.30pm local time, Malaysia was handed its Report Card! The Human Rights version.

Yup, that’s right. 

Every 4.5 years, human rights record of all 193 UN Member states would be reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Yesterday was Malaysia’s 3rd time.

So before we delved into the teas, dramas and whatnot; here’s the long-story-short about what UPR is and what it does. 
Source: UPR-Info

In Short: UPR is a place where other countries can ‘judge’ each others performance in terms of human rights and give recommendations together. Think high-school reunions; but with countries.  

So once those recommendations are made…

Countries – like Malaysia – are supposed to review the recommendations and adopt them. Of course, this is based on the country’s own free will.

Now, back to Malaysia’s Human Rights Report Card!

Who was there representing us??

The Malaysian Delegation to Geneva this time consisted of a mix of government officials and also NGOs.


From the Government: Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dato’ Seri Ramlan Ibrahim and officers from Jakim.

From the NGOs: Ms.Honey Tan (Empower), Mr.Rizal Rozhan (COMANGO), Ms.Majidah Hashim (Sisters in Islam), Gerald Joseph (SUHAKAM), Andrew Khoo (Malaysian Bar), and Aidil Khalid (CLJ).

So ‘Isu Apa Yang Disentuh’?

Throughout the review, countries gave various commendations and recommendations towards Malaysia. Yet, 3 issues stood out.

They were;
  • The Rights And Protection Of LGBTQ+ Individuals;

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As you all know, the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia have recently been bombarded with tonnes of bad press and opposition.

In fact, we even published a whole article on the fiasco; stating that when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, the new Government is as bad as the old one.

With the ultimate resignation of LGBTQ+ activist, Numan Afifi from his role in the government to the public caning of two lesbian women in Terengganu on the 12th of August; it was no surprise when the issue was brought up by multiple countries.

Among the recommendations made were the decriminalizing of consensual same-sex sexual relations and also the ratification of treaties in order to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ Malaysians.

  • Female Genital Mutilations (FGM);

FGM is a process whereby the genitals of young girls and female babies are mutilated – either by cutting off part of the clitoris or even the whole labia! The practice is done based on cultural and ethnic beliefs, however, in Malaysia, it is only practiced by the Muslim Communities.

In 2009, the National Fatwa Committee had stated that FGM – in which they termed it as ‘female circumcision’ – was part of Islamic tradition and should be observed by Muslims.

Now, it’s important to note that many countries have outright ban FGM – even Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt – as the practice is deemed as barbaric and discriminatory.

In fact, in late February 2018, Malaysia was chided by representatives of other Islamic countries for allowing FGM under the guise that it was an Islamic tradition. Here were what they had to say;

I come from Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country, and I find it very disturbing when I find reference that FGM is sanctioned under the religion of Islam – Ismat Jahan, Bangladesh

FGM is not compatible with Islam. We are forbidding it and we are putting penalties on the person who is doing it, practising it – whether it is the doctor or the family – Naéla Gabr, Egypt


Thus, recommendations made by countries in regards to FGM were; the ratification of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – which outright bans all forms of FGM – and cessation of all forms of FGM while ensuring measures will be taken so that it cannot be overruled by any fatwa or religious ruling.

  • The abolishment of the death penalty and other forms of degrading punishment; 

As to you all know, the death penalty in Malaysia has been put on a moratorium – the up-class version of saying that it’s ‘NOT IN USE’.

And while there were many Malaysians who weren’t so happy with that; our efforts have been noticed in the international arena.

Throughout the review, countries after countries commended our actions and urged us to completely abolished the sentence as soon as possible. Here’s just some of them;

However, many others also called from the end to degrading/corporal punishment such as whipping.

And Malaysia’s response?

Following all the recommendations, Malaysia was given time to respond. And while we would like to say that they were amazing in their answer, things were just ‘Meh’ to be honest.

Our reactions when we heard some of the answers

In regards to LGBTQ+ issues, this was their respond;

And people were not having it.

As for Malaysia’s response in regards to recommendations on the banning of FGM, this was what they had to say.


The statement drew fire from both the Malaysian public and NGOs alike.

Luckily, things were a bit more positive when it came to issues regarding the death penalty.

Our delegation assured that Malaysia was committed to abolishing the death penalty and that it is just a matter of taking it to Parliament to officiate it.

All in all, Malaysia’s 3rd round of being reviewed by the UPR can be said to be lukewarm.

While we are definitely progressing in terms of basic human rights, it seems pressing issues that might trigger religious backlash -i.e. FGM and LGBTQ+ issues – will still be swept under the rug.

But, it seems, our local NGOs will still be fighting the good fight. Now, all that’s left is to give them our support.

What do you think of Malaysia’s UPR Review?



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