Minister: No problem if organisers had not labelled portraits as ‘LGBT activists’

Kenneth Tee
Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Nisha Ayub attend a press conference in Putrajaya August 10, 2018. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 10 ― Minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa today blamed George Town Festival 2018’s organisers for forcing his hand in the removal of portraits of LGBT activists, which included Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik.

Following a meeting a transgender advocate Nisha here, Mujahid claimed Nisha herself had admitted that she was not aware of her photo being used in the exhibition, with the label of an LGBT activist.

“I am taking that stance in order to protect the safety of the trans community because of the backlash they may experience from the label. Can you imagine if the pictures were exhibited for over a month?

"You do not put up a picture of someone without their permission and certainly you do not label someone who does not belong to such activism," he said at the Putrajaya Islamic Complex.

Nisha had earlier confirmed the photo involved was taken last year, for a Merdeka anniversary photoshoot.

Mujahid said the transgender community has to be protected from harassment because of its “visibility”.

“It is clear to me that the transgender group is the most vulnerable because they cannot run away from their appearance,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nisha said she does not consider herself an “LGBT activist”, but rather a “trans advocate”.

The trans woman said she was aware that her picture was taken down for a reason, but pointed out that she was more concerned of the impact towards the safety of the transgender community.

“People began sending me hate messages up to the point of threatening to kill me with such hateful description.

“However, I am surrounded by friends who provide a secure place for me... but what about the others in my community who face possible violence?” she asked.

Nisha, who was visibly emotional during the joint press conference with Mujahid, said transgender people are constantly being discriminated up to point where the majority of them end up becoming sex workers due to society’s treatment towards them.

“We are Malaysians and we want to be treated with respect and to be able to integrate with the community at large.

“What we are asking for is respect and for the public to stop stereotyping us,” she said.

On Wednesday, Nisha’s portrait along with fellow LGBT activist Pang Khee Teik was removed from a photography exhibition at the George Town Festival 2018.

Mujahid had confirmed while at Parliament that he instructed the portraits be removed as it was considered to be promoting LGBT activities, adding it is not in line with the Pakatan Harapan government’s policies.

The exhibition, which is also held in conjunction with George Town Festival, consists of 28 portraits of various Malaysians holding the national flag.