KUALA LUMPUR: Health care providers should not discriminate against transgender people, former Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said today.
Dr Ismail said when he was previously Health DG from 2005 to 2011, he had talked to the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (Jakim) about transgender issues in health care and found them to be receptive.
“But because of politicisation of the issue, things are a bit more different.
“But health care providers must stand their ground. We’re not judgmental. We must provide services that are required,” Dr Ismail said at a talk organised by the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy.
He was responding to Dorian Wilde, founder of community-based organisation Trans Men of Malaysia, who had asked about authorities withdrawing certain services because of morality and Islamic conservatism, such as the drastic reduction of trans-specific health care services in the 1980s.
“What is to say that abortion and contraceptives might not be affected in the future?” Wilde said during question and answer.
Wilde told Malay Mail after Dr Ismail’s talk that sex reassignment surgery and hormonal replacement therapy were widely available in public hospitals until a fatwa in 1982 banned sex reassignment surgery, leading to the closure of many clinics.
He also said the transgender community was reluctant to seek health care at public facilities because of stigma or in extreme cases, sexual assault.
“There was a case of a trans woman who presented a fever and was asked to strip,” Wilde said.
“Sexual assault is one thing, but doctors and nurses also ask intrusive questions about your transition. Transgender people who can afford it go to private care because it’s less intrusive,” he said.