In Southeast Asia, no longer silence on LGBT issues

Published: May 6, 2011

Last week 66 young boys in the conservative largely Muslim state of Terengganu, Malaysia, were sent to a special ‘re-education’ camp for displaying signs of effeminacy which if left ‘unchecked’, state official argued, could “reach the point of no return”. In other words they could ‘become’ gay or transsexual.

While the women’s minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, criticized this move, neither the state government nor the Federal government has yet acted to do anything about this. But we should not be either shocked or surprised since gay rights in Malaysia are largely non-existent.

Only a month earlier for example, Malaysian radio stations chose to deliberately ‘garble’ the line, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian or transgendered life, I’m on the right track, baby” in the Lady Gaga song “Born this Way” for fear of being fined by the government for breaking rules on ‘good taste… decency.. [or for being] “offensive to public feeling”.

Indeed as the current trial of the opposition leader, and former deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim visibly demonstrates, the country’s religious and political elite continue to regard homosexuality as a morally repugnant way of life. Thus in Anwar’s case putting him on trial for sodomy (which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison) has proven a ‘convenient’ and sadly rational tactic by the government to destroy his political career and tarnish his public image.

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