At about 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, a 27-year-old transgender woman, Sameera Krishnan, was brutally murdered in Kuantan city, Malaysia.

Krishnan who worked in a florist shop, was attacked with a knife and received slash wounds to her hands, arm, head, and legs, and was shot up to three times. Reportedly her attackers were three masked men who had arrived in two cars.

Photo of Sameera Krishnan.

© Private

Krishnan’s funeral was held on Friday, February 24, which happened to be her birthday.

The police chief of Kuantan, on peninsular Malaysia’s east coast, stated that the authorities have started an investigation into the killing.

Transgender people in Malaysia live in a hostile environment. Malaysia is one of very few countries in the world that prosecutes individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, simply for being who they are.

Historically, transgender people had a high degree of acceptance in Malaysia. But this began to change with a series of state legislative initiatives, beginning in the 1980s, that criminalized transgender people and forced them underground. Under these discriminatory laws, transgender people can be arrested simply for wearing clothing deemed not to pertain to their assigned sex.

In a 2014 report, “I’m Scared to be a Women: Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Malaysia,” Human Rights Watch documented rights violations by state religious officials and police, including arbitrary arrests, detention, sexual assault, and torture, as well as extortion of money and sex. Human Rights Watch also identified instances of violence by private citizens, employment discrimination, and stigmatizing treatment by health workers.

Official crackdowns on transgender people came with a cost. Today, violence, aggression, and discrimination against transgender people in Malaysia are underreported because transgender people – quite understandably – do not trust the police.

The police should work to earn back some of the transgender community’s trust by conducting a thorough and professional investigation into the killing of Sameera Krishnan, and ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice.