A call for LGBTQ rights was condemned by Malaysian politicians at the International Women’s Day march.
Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in charge of religious affairs, said the event was a “misuse of democratic space,” adding LGBTQ rights are “wrong from the point of Islam” and should not be defended.
Hundreds rallied in the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding a ban on child marriage, a dignified minimum wage and an end to patriarchy and violence based on gender and sexual orientation, as reported by Reuters.
However, according to the Women’s March organizing committee, “Disproportionate attention was made to single out and target the presence of LGBT participants.”
In Malaysia, the civil law stipulates oral and anal sex against the order of nature is punishable up to 20 years in prison. In response to whether Malaysia would welcome gay travelers, Tourism Minister Mohammaddin bin Ketapi told Deutsche Welle at the ITB travel conference: “I don’t think we have anything like that in our country” despite a public caning of two women attempting lesbian sex in Terengganu last September that gained international attention.
After Ketapi’s statement, Numan Afifi, president of the Pelangi Campaign told The Advocate, “Erasure of our existence will not only just trivialize our struggle but also perpetuate the injustices toward us.”
Latteffah Ali, state chairperson of the women’s wing of the United Malays National Organisation spoke out against the LGBTQ rights movement last year, stating that LGBTQ equal rights would serve to degrade “a healthy and ethical generation.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attributed LGBTQ to “Western values,” adding “Don’t force it on us” during his speech at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. According to rights activists, the prime minister’s blunt remarks are reflective of the growing intolerance toward the LGBTQ community in Malaysia.
The once rare law enforcement of anti-LGBTQ laws is becoming more commonplace. In August 2018, the Royal Malaysian Police raided and arrested 20 people at a gay bar in Kuala Lumpur in an attempt to “mitigate the spreading of LGBTQ culture into our society,” as reported by officials.