Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including marital rape, is a criminal offense, as are most forms of domestic violence. Rape is punishable by a maximum 20 years’ imprisonment and caning. Marital rape does not have a minimum penalty, but the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment. According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Home Affairs, approximately 16 percent of reported rape cases were taken to court, with a conviction rate of 2.7 percent of all reported cases.
Many government hospitals had crisis centers where victims of rape and domestic abuse could make reports without going to a police station. Women’s groups asserted the courts were inconsistent in punishing rapists.
Although the government and NGOs maintained shelters and offered other assistance to battered spouses, activists asserted that support mechanisms for victims of domestic violence remained inadequate. There is a sexual investigations unit at each police headquarters to help victims of sexual crimes and abuse, and police sometimes assign psychologists or counselors to provide emotional support.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a common practice, but data is very limited. Ministry of Health guidelines allow the practice but only at government health-care facilities.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits a person in authority from using his or her position to intimidate a subordinate to have sexual relations. The law classifies some types of workplace sexual harassment as criminal offenses (see section 7.d.). A government voluntary code of conduct provides a detailed definition of sexual harassment intended to raise public awareness of the problem. Observers noted that authorities took claims seriously, but victims were often reluctant to report sexual harassment because of embarrassment, the difficulty of proving the offense, and a lengthy trial process.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination against citizens based on gender, and gives men and women equal property rights. However, sharia law, which deviates from these principles in some areas, was sometimes applied. For instance, Islamic inheritance law generally favors male offspring and male relatives. Sharia also generally requires a husband’s consent for divorce, but a small but steadily increasing number of women were able to obtain divorces under sharia without their husband’s consent. Non-Muslim women are not subject sharia. Civil law gives non-Muslim mothers and fathers equal parental rights, while sharia favors fathers. Nevertheless, four states–Johor, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Pahang–extend equal parental rights to Muslim mothers.
The law requires equal pay for male and female workers for work of equal value. Nonetheless, NGOs reported continued discrimination against women in the workplace in terms of promotion and salary (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: A child born in the country obtains citizenship if one parent is a citizen or permanent resident at the time of birth and the parents are married. Parents must register a child within 14 days of birth. Parents applying for late registration must provide proof the child was born in the country. According to UNHCR, children born to Malaysian mothers outside the country may only acquire citizenship at the discretion of the federal government through registration at an overseas Malaysian consulate or at the National Registration Department in country. Authorities do not register children born to illegal immigrants or asylum seekers. UNHCR registered children born to refugees (see section 2.d.).
Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal through primary school (six years), though there was no enforcement mechanism governing school attendance. Public schools are not open to the children of illegal immigrants or refugees, whether registered with UNHCR or not.
Child Abuse: Child abuse took the form of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse (including incest), and infant abandonment. Punishment for child abuse includes fines, imprisonment, caning, or a combination of these measures.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18 years for men and 16 years for women. Muslim women younger than 16 years may marry with the approval of a sharia court. In some cases, authorities treated early marriage as a solution to statutory rape.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law outlaws pornography and states that a child is considered a victim of sexual abuse if he or she has taken part as a participant or an observer in any activity that is sexual in nature for the purposes of a photograph, recording, film, videotape, or performance. Under the law the minimum age for consensual, noncommercial sex is 16 years for both boys and girls. A conviction for trafficking in persons involving a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation carries a punishment of three to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine. In June the government established a special court for sexual crimes against children to speed up trials, many of which take years to conclude. Child prostitution existed and a local NGO estimated in 2015 that 5,000 children were involved in sex work in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas. Authorities, however, often treated children in prostitution as offenders or undocumented immigrants rather than as victims.
The government focused on preventing sexual exploitation of children, including commercial sexual exploitation. In April parliament passed a bill to protect children from sexual abuse, including provisions that can be applied to citizens who commit offenses outside of the country. The law provides for six to 20 years’ imprisonment and caning for individuals convicted of incest. A child’s testimony is acceptable only if there is corroborating evidence, which posed special problems for molestation cases in which the child victim was the only witness.
Displaced Children: The prevalence of street children was a problem in Sabah. Estimates of the street children population ranged from a few thousand to 15,000, many of whom were born in the country to illegal immigrant parents. Authorities deported some of these parents, leaving the children without guardians. Lacking citizenship, access to schooling, and other government-provided support, these children often resorted to menial labor, criminal activities, and prostitution to survive; those living on the streets were vulnerable to forced labor, including forced begging.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The country’s Jewish population was estimated to be between 100 and 200 persons. Anti-Semitism was a serious problem across the political spectrum and attracted wide support among segments of the population. A 2015 Anti-Defamation League survey found 61 percent of citizens held anti-Jewish attitudes. Government-owned newspapers and statements by current and former political officeholders sometimes blamed civil society activity on “Jewish plots” or “Jewish conspiracies.”
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law gives persons with disabilities the right to equal access and use of public facilities, amenities, services, and buildings open or provided to the public. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development is responsible for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities.
New government buildings generally had a full range of facilities for persons with disabilities. The government, however, did not mandate accessibility to transportation for persons with disabilities, and authorities retrofitted few older public facilities to provide access to persons with disabilities. Recognizing public transportation was not “disabled friendly,” the government maintained its 50 percent reduction of excise duty on locally made cars and motorcycles adapted for persons with disabilities.
Employment discrimination occurred in relation to persons with disabilities (see section 7.d.).
Students with disabilities attended mainstream schools, but accessibility remained a serious problem. Separate education facilities also existed, but were insufficient to meet the needs of all students with disabilities.
The constitution gives ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups, collectively known as “bumiputra,” a “special position” in the country. Government regulations and policies provide for extensive preferential programs designed to boost the economic position of bumiputra, who constitute a majority of the population. Such programs limited opportunities for nonbumiputra (primarily ethnic Chinese and Indians) in higher education and government employment. Many industries were subject to race-based requirements that mandated bumiputra ownership levels. Government procurement and licensing policies favor bumiputra-owned businesses. The government claimed these policies were necessary to attain ethnic harmony and political stability.
The constitution provides indigenous and nonindigenous people with the same civil and political rights, but the government did not effectively protect these rights. Indigenous people, who numbered approximately 200,000, constituted the poorest group in the country.
Indigenous people in peninsular Malaysia, known as Orang Asli, had very little ability to participate in decisions that affected them. A constitutional provision provides for “the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak,” but does not refer specifically to the Orang Asli. This ambiguity over the community’s status in the constitution led to selective interpretation by different public institutions.
The courts have ruled that the Orang Asli have rights to their customary lands under the constitution, but NGOs say the government failed to recognize these judicial pronouncements. The government can seize this land if it provides compensation. There were confrontations between indigenous communities and logging companies over land, and uncertainty over their land tenure made indigenous people vulnerable to exploitation.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Homosexual acts are illegal regardless of age or consent. The law states that sodomy and oral sex acts are “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” though authorities rarely enforced this provision.
It was, however, the basis for the controversial case against parliamentary opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (see section 1.e.). Religious and cultural taboos against same-sex sexual conduct were widespread (see section 2.a.).
Authorities often charged transgender individuals with “indecent behavior” and “importuning for immoral purposes” in public. Those convicted of a first offense faced a maximum fine of 25 RM ($5.77) and a maximum sentence of 14 days in jail. The sentences for subsequent convictions may be maximum fines of 100 RM ($23.10) and a maximum of three months in jail. Local advocates contended that imprisoned transgender women served their sentences in prisons for men where police and inmates often abused them verbally and sexually.
A survey by a local transgender rights group reported more than two-thirds of transgender women experienced some form of physical or emotional abuse. In February, Sameera Krishnan, a transgender woman, was shot and killed and her body mutilated in the eastern city of Kuantan. Police arrested five suspects in April but later released them on bail. Sameera had been previously kidnapped, beaten, and raped in 2015. Court proceedings against two men charged in her 2015 kidnapping continued as of November. According to a local transgender rights NGO, two other transgender women were killed in the year through November.