Five people have been charged with the murder of a 32 year old transgender woman in Klang, Malaysia.
They are accused of beating the woman to death on the morning of 12 December, New Straits Times reports.
She died while receiving treatment at Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital after a security guard discovered her unconscious body outside a hotel in Bandar Bukit Tinggi.
An autopsy found the victim sustained 32 injuries, including a cracked skull and internal haemorrhaging in the brain, after being beaten with a blunt object.
The unidentified woman was from the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
21 year old Low Shi Haur, 19 year old Tan Khim Siang, and two boys aged 16 and 17 were charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which would see them face the death penalty if convicted.
The four nodded in understanding when the charges were read to them before Magistrate Solehah Noratikah Ismail, although no plea was recorded.
A fifth suspect, who remains at large, was charged in absentia.
“One of the suspects had claimed the woman had allegedly stolen his Huawei Nuova 2i mobile phone while servicing him in November,” Klang Selatan police chief Assistant Commissioner Shamsul Amar Ramli said following their arrest earlier this month, per Malay Mail.
“The motive of the case is strictly on the alleged theft committed and not hate crimes against LGBT.”
The case will continue on 30 January. No bail was granted.
LGBTI activists have urged the government to step up protections for transgender people in response to the attacks.
Ayub says the LGBTI community is disproportionately affected by hate crimes because they are often ostracised by society, but transgender people are even more vulnerable due to their visibility.
Justice for Sisters, a Malaysian transgender rights group, have recorded 12 cases of humiliation, physical attack, and torture of trans people in Malaysia between 2017 and 2018.
“The law should not be exclusive to transgenders but for all people of different races and colour,” she said.
“Parliament should seriously look into enacting hate crime legislation so the authorities can take concrete action to protect and promote rights based on race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Eric Paulsen, legal director of South-East Asian human rights organisation Fortify Rights.
“It will reduce the climate of hate and intolerance against them.”
LGBTI people are experiencing increased discrimination and persecution in Malaysia, where homosexuality is criminalised and punishable by jail or corporal punishment.
Earlier this year two women aged 22 and 32 were fined and caned after being convicted of “attempting to have lesbian sex” in a car, and a university Muslim Students’ Association held a competition to create a video or poster on how to convert LGBTI students back to Islam.
This followed a 2017 initiative from the health ministry encouraging people aged 13 to 24 to create anti-LGBTI propaganda videos against “gender confusion” to discourage people from being gay or transgender.