Brace yourselves: JAKIM going to UN to talk LGBTQ+ issues, human rights and child marriage

Previous UPR Session by US Mission Geneva via Flickr
Previous UPR Session by US Mission Geneva via Flickr

Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department, aka JAKIM, has a date this week at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. A representative from the organization will be assisting Malaysian delegates at the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where member countries come together to review human rights records among themselves.

If you’re unfamiliar with the format, each state is given a platform to speak on the improvement of human rights situations in their countries, and their steps to “fulfill their human rights obligations,” according to the UN body.

JAKIM’s director-general, Mohamad Nordin Ibrahim, has said that their perspective on several matters will be touched on, including child marriage and LGBTQ+ issues.

For the record, we’re currently batting 0-2 on both topics in the eyes of the world. Not helping matters was the case of an 11-year-old girl “marrying” her 43-year-old paramour making international headlines earlier this year. He was never charged with grooming, despite stringent laws against it, and word from The Guardian is that the two are believed to have had a sexual relationship.

Then there are the sundry LGBTQ+ discrimination issues that hit similar levels of both local and international exposure and condemnation. Violence against transgendered citizens? Check. Removal of LGBTQ+activist portraits at a non-political photo exhibition? Double check. Caning of two women accused of lesbian activities, despite the fact that many activists claim the women never had access to proper legal council? Yep, we had that too.

However, Mohamad Nordin does not see these as blemishes on our country’s record, and hopes that with the involvement of JAKIM, the delegations will help our country clarify its stances, and the efforts being made to defend fundamental rights from an Islamic perspective.

“This opportunity can also be used by Malaysia to give the world an overview of the approach taken by the state in defending human rights based on cultural, background and racial origin in our country based on the Federal Constitution and Sharia law,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

Sir, we hope that you’re aware that we’ve also yet to sign the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, because that may come up when you start to talk about human rights.

The Islamic Development Department also hopes that Malaysia’s participation at the UPR will increase the conversation regarding the religion in the country, as well as change views on various matters in the pursuit of unity. He also hopes that JAKIM’s participation will show delegates that Islam is the best religion, bringing blessings to all its people.

No word on what views he’d like to change, nor how the Rohingya refugees living in squalor in our country’s immigration detention camps feel about this statement, but we’re all ears on what he has to say come Nov. 8.

Member states have been taking part in the UPR every five years since 2009, and this will be JAKIM’s second time at the event. The department will be represented by their Deputy Director General of Policy, Judge Mohd Yusoff.

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