Malaysian transgender trailblazer Khartini named regional ‘hero’
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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 ― Local transgender activist Khartini Slamah, who was among the first to mobilise the community in the late 1980s, was feted with a Hero Award by Bangkok-based regional sexual minorities advocacy group APCOM last night.
Khartini, known to her friends as Kak Tini, was among the 21 finalists selected from over 350 nominations across the region, and ended up being one of the eight activists awarded.
“Khartini Slamah is Malaysia’s esteemed transgender activist who dedicated service to transgender rights and health,” the group said in a social media post announcing Khartini’s Hero Award in the “Transgender Hero” category.
“She offered more than 30 years of service as an outstanding defender of transgender human rights and as a dedicated HIV advocate at the national, regional and international levels particularly on transgender and sex worker communities.”
Khartini last served as a transgender programme officer for the ISEAN Hivos Programme, a project for communities vulnerable to HIV and AIDS in four countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Timor Leste. Here, the programmed was managed by the PT Foundation.
She first got involved with activism as secretary for the then Federal Territory Mak Nyah Association in 1987, led by transgender actress Mimi Zarina. “Mak Nyah” is the term coined by local trans women community starting from 1980s to identify themselves.
Malay Mail Online has contacted Khartini, who is currently still in Bangkok, for her response to the award.
In 2014, Khartini had told Malay Mail Online that life as trans women, especially Muslim ones, became more oppressive from 1995 onwards as religious authorities regularly conducted raids and subjected them to verbal abuse, usually questioning their faith in Islam.
Malaysian transgender activist Nisha Ayub had in 2015 and 2016 received several awards from the Asia LGBT Milestone Awardsm international watchdog Human Rights Watch, and the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.
In a public Facebook post last night, Nisha had congratulated Khartini for her award.