Mak nyah

Mak nyah

Mak nyah is a Malay term for a male-to-female transsexual. The name is preferred by Malaysian transsexuals to various derogatory terms (namely, pondan and bapok), as these slurs are variously directed to gay men as well as transsexuals. Mak nyah is formed from the word mak, meaning 'mother', and 'nyah', meaning 'transition' (literally, 'to run from'). Though less used, the term pak nyah is sometimes used for female-to-male transsexuals, and the hybrid term mak-pak nyah for all transsexuals. These terms are sometimes also used by and for cross-dressers.

The non-governmental organisation IKHLAS (Pink Triangle) estimated in 1998 that there approximately 10,000 mak nyah in Malaysia, of whom 70–80% are Malays. Although this proportion is greater than that of Malays in Malaysian society, it is well within the margin of error. In 1983, the Malaysian Conference of Rulers ruled that sex-reassignment surgery should be forbidden to all except intersex people. Under Section 21 of the Minor Offences Act 1955, mak nyah can be charged for indecent behaviour for dressing as women. Such a charge usually results in a small fine of RM25–50. However, as the majority of mak nyah are Muslim, they can be further charged by a syariah court for offences against Islamic law, for which there is a fine of RM800–3,000. Police and religious officials can and do carry out raids in search of mak nyah and others considered guilty of 'sex crimes'.

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