The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Malaysia

By Vexen Crabtree 2019


#equality #freedom #human_rights #malaysia #politics #tolerance

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
CapitalKuala Lumpur (legislative/judicial) and Putrajaya (administrative)
Land Area 328 550km21
Population29.3m (2011)2
Life Expectancy74.90yrs (2017)3
GNI$24 620 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesMY, MYS, 4585
Internet Domain.my6
CurrencyRinggit (MYR)7

Malaysia is very poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world, and it has cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Malaysia does worse than average in supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms9, eliminating modern slavery10, supporting press freedom11 and in LGBT equality12. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in fighting anti-semitic opinions13, commentary from Human Rights Watch14 and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights15. Malaysia "continued its crackdown on critical voices and human rights defenders in 2017". Malaysia already persecutes non-Muslims and thoroughly rejects human rights, but in 2017 it continued to deepen its Islam-based intolerance and prejudice even further16, and in 2017 was considering giving Shariah courts more powers16. Anti-free-speech laws are used to persecute critics even for minor and indirect criticisms of government policy16. LGBT and women's rights are both rejected.

1. Politics and Freedom

#antisemitism #burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #freedom #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #Malaysia #mass_media #peace #politics #slavery

Malaysia´s government continued its crackdown on critical voices and human rights defenders in 2017. With corruption allegations casting a shadow over Prime Minister Najib Razak, the government strengthened abusive laws and facilitated a societal shift toward a more conservative and less tolerant approach to Islam. [...]

Police torture of suspects in custody, in some cases resulting in deaths, continues to be a serious problem, as does a lack of accountability for such offenses. [...] Over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom come from Burma [...] are unable to work, travel, or enroll in government schools.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)16

Malaysia uses anti-free-speech laws to persecute critics even for minor and indirect criticisms of government policy16.

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)13
Pos.Lower is better
81S. Korea53
87Saudi Arabia74
World Avg36.8
Corruption (2012-2016)17
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score17
2New Zealand90.6
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)18
Pos.Lower is better18
2New Zealand1.24
World Avg2.02

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)14
Pos.Higher is better
117N. Korea-10
121Congo, DR-10
122Saudi Arabia-10
World Avg-1.9
Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)15
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
189Marshall Islands4
190Myanmar (Burma)4
World Avg15.1
Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)9
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
World Avg79.7

Press Freedom (2013)11
Pos.Lower is better11
141Congo, DR4166
World Avg3249

Slavery (2018)10
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims10
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory19. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends20. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life21. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves22.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery23. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity24. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.25. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi10, Eritrea10, Indonesia26) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery27.

No Malaysians have been held responsible for their role in the deaths of over 100 ethnic Rohingya trafficking victims whose bodies were found in 2015 in remote jungle detention camps on the Thai-Malaysian border. The 12 policemen initially charged in the case were all exonerated and released in March 2017.

The Malaysian government has failed to effectively implement amendments passed in 2014 to Malaysia´s 2007 anti-trafficking law, in particular by taking the necessary administrative steps to provide assistance and work authorization to all trafficking victims who desire it, while ensuring their freedom of movement.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)16

2. Gender Equality

#gender #Malaysia #misogyny #politics #women

Gender Inequality (2015)28
Pos.Lower is better28
63Costa Rica0.31
World Avg0.36

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

Year Women Can Vote29
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
World Avg1930

The 1950s saw a late rush of 43 countries, including Malaysia and many developing nations, move to cease preventing women from voting. Malaysia is on the way towards ending gender inequality but women are still in an unfavourable position much of the time.

Malaysia took a step forward in the protection of women's rights in 2017 by amending its domestic violence law to provide better protection for victims of domestic violence. It also passed a law expanding criminal sanctions for sex offenses against children. Efforts to pass a law to end child marriage were defeated, however, and Malaysia is one of the few countries that does not collect data on the number of children marrying. Marital rape is not a crime in Malaysia.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)16


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #Malaysia #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)12
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence30. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws31. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries30. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is pervasive in Malaysia. Numerous laws and regulations attributed to Sharia prohibiting a “man posing as a woman,” sexual relations between women, and sexual relations between men effectively criminalize LGBT people.

Violence against LGBT people remains a serious concern, highlighted by the murder of a transgender woman Sameera Krishnan in February, and the rape and murder of 18-year-old T. Nhaveen, a young man whose assailants taunted him with anti-LGBT slurs, in June. In a positive development, the Health Ministry, in response to strident criticism from activists and the general public, reframed the terms of a youth video competition, removing language and criteria that stigmatized LGBT identities in favor of language that appears to affirm them.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)16

4. Malaysia Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Malaysia

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#atheism #christianity #islam #malaysia

Malaysia has a particular problem when it comes to human rights surrounding freedom of belief, with non-Muslims facing persecution and legal restrictions impacting on many aspects of their personal lives16, and deconversion from Islam is difficult, impossible, and illegal33.

In 2017, "a government minister called for 'atheists' to be tracked down"16.

Book CoverA few years ago, Lina Joy, a Malaysian who had been born a Muslim, started proceedings in civil court to obtain the right to marry her Christian fiancé and have children. She maintained that she had converted from Islam to Christianity and, consequently, did not need the permission of the Islamic sharia courts that typically governed such matters for Muslims in Malaysia. The lower civil courts ruled against her, and ultimately she brought the case to the nation's highest court, which - in May 2007 - rejected her appeal. Thus, her official identity card still designates her religion as Muslim. The high court ruled that one cannot, at one's whim and fancy, renounce a religion. Lina Joy continues to endure many death threats from Muslims who consider her an apostate and she lives in hiding. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a Muslim human rights lawyer who helped with her case, has received one death threat that was widely circulated by e-mail. This e-mail featured his picture, with the heading "Wanted Dead" and the text "This is the face of the traitorous lawyer to Islam who supports the Lina Joy apostasy case."

"Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism" by Neil J. Kressel (2007)33

The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)34, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Malaysia states:

The constitution protects freedom of religion or belief. However, portions of the constitution as well as other laws and policies restrict this freedom. Prosecutions for blasphemy usually target those who offend Islam, but an insult to any religion can give rise to prosecution. Every Malaysian citizen over the age of 12 must carry an identification card, a 'MyKad', which must state the bearer's religion. This requirement alone appears to breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPT) under which States have no right to demand to know the religion of any of their citizens; a point reinforced by Section 3 of General Comment 22 of the Human Rights Committee: 'In accordance with articles 18.2 and 17, no one can be compelled to reveal his thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief.' But, in addition, the government has a history of limiting how citizens can identify their religion.35

The constitution defines ethnic Malays as Muslim. Authorities at the state level administer Sharia laws through Islamic courts and have jurisdiction over all Muslims. Sharia laws and the degree of their enforcement vary by state. State governments impose Sharia law on Muslims in some cultural and social matters but generally do not interfere with the religious practices of non-Muslim communities; however, debates continued regarding incorporating elements of Sharia law, such as khalwat (being in close physical proximity with an unrelated member of the opposite sex), into secular civil and criminal law. Although specific punishments for violation of khalwat vary from state to state, it is typically punishable by some combination of imprisonment up to two years, a fine of RM 3,000 ($940)36, or several strokes of the cane.

Amending the penal code is the exclusive prerogative of the federal government. Despite contradicting federal law, the state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu passed laws in 1993 and 2002, respectively, making apostasy a capital offense. Apostasy is defined as the conversion from Islam to another faith. No one has been convicted under these laws and, according to a 1993 statement by the Attorney General, the laws cannot be enforced absent a constitutional amendment. Nationally, Muslims who seek to convert to another religion must first obtain approval from a Sharia court to declare themselves "apostates." This effectively prohibits the conversion of Muslims, since Sharia courts seldom grant such requests and can impose penalties (such as enforced "rehabilitation") on apostates. Additionally, Articles 295-298A of the penal code allow up to three years in prison and a US $1,000 fine penalties for those who "commit offenses against religion", which covers "blasphemous" statements, usually against Islam.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)34

Current edition: 2019 Jan 01
Parent page: Malaysia

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#antisemitism #atheism #burundi #christianity #corruption #equality #eritrea #france #freedom #gender #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #intolerance #islam #Malaysia #mass_media #misogyny #peace #politics #sexuality #slavery #tolerance #women

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Anti-Defamation League. (ADL)
(2014) ADL Global 100, Executive Summary. Accessed on on 2017 Jan 02. The numbers given are of those who state that racist stereotyped statements about Jews are true; they have to agree to 6 or more of the 11 statements to be counted. An example statements is "Jews are hated because of the way they behave". The data was collected from 53,100 interviews across 101 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza. The global average is 26%.

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

Kressel, Neil
(2007) Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism. Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Prometheus Books, New York, USA. An e-book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on


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