Press Statement by YB Chong Eng

CPO DCP Ayub Misplaced Priority on Transsexual Sex Trade

170310 Kuala Lumpur

I call upon Penang State Chief Police Office DCP Datuk Wira Ayub to prioritize the state police force on combating direct threats to the people's personal safety such as snatch thefts, homes break-ins, kidnapping, murder and crimes against women, rather than focusing on groups already marginalized such as the transsexuals, some who are engaged in the sex trade.

In recent years, the general public are more and more threatened with the increasing crime rate and the deterioration of law enforcement; these threats, however, do not mainly come from the transsexuals engaging in sex trade. Therefore, by setting up the police force against them rather than fighting crime, DCP Ayub is misplacing the priority of the police force.

No country in this world can totally ban the sex trade. The police force anti-vice team has conducted thousands of raids on prostitution activities, but instead of eradicating it, the sex trade was booming, with an estimated RM3 billion reaped in 2008. There are also an increasing numbers of sex workers from foreign countries.

Social problems also cannot be eliminated by mere strict enforcement, therefore we cannot entirely blame the police or the local government law enforcement for failure to eradicate sex trade.

Likewise transsexual sex trade is also a result of globalization and more open-mindedness about individual sexual orientation, it cannot be eliminated by mere legal enforcement. DCP Ayub's claim that Penang is becoming a hub for commercial gay sex services due to weak enforcement by the local government not only indicate his insufficient grasp on the subject but also hint a deliberate attempt to undermine the image of the Pakatan Rakyat State Goverment and the local goverment.

In Malaysia, homosexual act is a a moral and legal issue because Section 377 (B) of our Penal Code which prohibits unnatural sexual intercourse. It was under the same provision which Parliamentary Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was charged. In other countries, such as Singapore, the Government based on a more in-depth understanding and open mindedness for human sexual orientation has abolished laws similar to S377 (B). They assert that as long as the said act is between consensual adults it is not an offence against the law.

Transsexuals are still subject to social isolation in our Country and they are part of the vulnerable minority. A small number of them are involved in the sex trade, perhaps for their livelihood and survival. From a sociological point of view, these sex workers should receive the same attention as female sex workers, to help them get out of the industry. What the police should really pay attention to is whether these sex workers are victims of human trafficking or forced slavery. The Ministry of Health on the other hand should also take measure to help those in the sex trade, whether male, female or transsexual, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis B and C.

If the police does not take into account socio-economic factors for the existence of sex trade and its health-dimension, and simply see law enforcement as a way to eradicate their activities, the industry will be forced to go further underground and this will in turn give rise to myriads other problems such as corruption, exploitation of middlemen, disease transmission and other more complex social problems.

Therefore, instead of making raids after raids, I call on the police force to take initiative with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to explore a comprehensive long term and short term measures for the reduction and effective control of sex trade across the country.

I do not deny that the transsexual sex trade should be a concern to the police and the Government, but we must understand that the trade involves a broader scope of social dynamics and the current model of raids and legal enforcement has failed to solve the problem. Also in view of the present threat against people's personal safety and the high crime rate, the police should prioritize to fight crime, improve law and order, ensure public safety, reduce snatch thefts, rape and break-ins.


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