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LGBT rights are largely unrecognised in Malaysia. Though many Malaysians are generally tolerant towards, and accepting of, LGBT individuals, the government retains the colonial era penal code criminalising sodomy. Social attitudes towards the LGBT community are also shaped by Islam, the official religion in Malaysia.

Criminal Code[edit]

Malaysia retains its colonial era criminal ban on sodomy (as well as oral sex), broadly defined to include both heterosexual and homosexual acts, with possible punishment including fines, prison sentences of up to twenty years, and even corporal punishment. A subsection of the criminal code also provides additional punishment for men convicted of "gross indecency with another male person".[1] In addition to the secular law, Muslim citizens may also be charged in special Islamic courts.[2]

There has been some public discussion about reforming the law so as to exempt private, non-commercial sexual acts between consenting adults. Some members of the major opposition party have expressed support for such a reform, most notably Latheefa Koya but this is not the official position of the party. No political party or elected member of parliament has formally proposed such a reform.[2]

In 1994, the government banned anyone who is homosexual, bisexual or transsexual from appearing in the state-controlled media.[3]

In 1995, the state of Selangor Religious Affairs Minister praised the Islamic Badar vigilante groups who had organised in 1994 to assist in the arrest of 7,000 for engaging in "unIslamic" activities such as homosexuality.[3]

In 2001, the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stated that the country will deport any visiting foreign cabinet ministers or diplomats who are gay.[4] Mohamad also warned gay ministers in foreign countries not to bring along their partners while visiting the nation.[5] Mahathir's daughter, Marina Mahathir, has called for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation.[6]

In 2005, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) chief Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor stated that the Navy would never accept homosexuals.[7]

In 2010, the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia announced it would only allow depiction of homosexual characters as long as the characters "repent" or die.[8]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

Template:See also Cross-dressing is not technically a crime. However, transgender individuals have often been arrested by police officers under the civil laws governing "public indecency", and if they are Muslim, can be further charged by religious officers under Sharia Laws for "impersonating" women. For example, in 1998, forty-five Muslim transvestites were charged and convicted in court for dressing as women, and twenty-three more transgender persons faced similar fines and imprisonment in 1999.[3] In 2012, a court upheld the ban on Muslim-born males wearing women’s clothes. The High Court in Seremban rejected a bid by four Muslim transsexuals who were born male to declare the Shariah law unconstitutional.[9]

It has been estimated that a large number of transgender persons are forced to work on the streets as commercial sex workers to earn a living.

LGBT in Malaysian politics[edit]

The "People's Anti-Homosexual Voluntary Movement", was created in 1998 to lobby for stricter criminal laws against homosexuality, and is a member of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO).[10]

The Democratic Action Party has publicly pledged to defend LGBT-rights issues, making it the first political party in Malaysia to do so.[11]

Prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim[edit]

Template:Main In 1998, Anwar Ibrahim was charged with corruption and sodomy. In 2000, he was sentenced to nine years for engaging in sodomy with his 19-year-old male chauffeur and his former male speech writer. Despite national and international protests, he was not released until he had served out four years of his sentence, in 2004, when the Federal Court of Malaysia acquitted him of all charges.[12]

After his release, Anwar stated that he was innocent and the allegations were part of a government conspiracy to end his political career. He also felt that the national criminal laws against homosexuality ought to be reformed to protect consenting adult's right to have a private life, although he also stated that gay marriage, "is going a bit too far".[13]

In 2007, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad responded to a civil lawsuit filed by Anwar by stating that a homosexual should not hold public office in Malaysia and that he knew Anwar was a homosexual because Anwar's male chauffeur and a male speech writer both stated in court that they had had sexual relations with Anwar.[14]

In July 2008, Anwar was arrested again, accused of sodomy with a male former aide. The arrest came shortly after Anwar claimed to be in a position to challenge the governing coalition after the opposition's successes in the march elections.[15] However, he was released on bail and won the campaign for his former seat in Parliament, and currently leads the opposition in Parliament.

LGBT organisations in Malaysia[edit]

Malaysia does not have a national organization committed to LGBT rights. Instead, a loose coalition of non-governmental organizations, artists, and individuals organize the annual sexuality rights festival Seksualiti Merdeka. Seksualiti Merdeka, meaning "Independent Sexuality", is an annual festival consisting of talks, performances, screenings, workshops, and forums to promote sexuality rights as a human right, to empower marginalised individuals and communities, and to create platforms for advocacy. Besides organising the programmes of this annual festival, members of this coalition are also involved in letter-writing campaigns, organising regular film screenings and discussions, academic advocacy and training of trainers.

The groups involved in Seksualiti Merdeka have also on their own advocated for the rights of LGBT within the framework of human rights advocacy. These include established human rights organisations such as the Human Rights Committee of the Malaysian Bar, SUARAM, PT Foundation, KRYSS, Women's Candidacy Initiative, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower), Purple Lab, Matahari Books, and The Annexe Gallery.

Several other groups such as Sisters in Islam, Women's Aid Organisation, and Amnesty International also have dealt with sexual orientation issues within their public health advocacy. The focus on AIDS-HIV education has allowed for more public discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights.

PT Foundation, originally called Pink Triangle, focuses on "providing HIV/AIDS education, prevention, care and support programes, sexuality awareness and empowerment programes for vulnerable communities in Malaysia". The communities include MSM (men who have sex with men), transgender, sex workers, drug users, and people living with HIV. They are joined by other organisations, such as "LPG" (for gay men) and "OutDo" (for lesbians) which organise regular activities for their target communities.

HIV/AIDS issues[edit]

Template:Main While not solely a problem for LGBT people, the public health response to AIDS-HIV has required greater public discussion of topics such as human sexuality, gender roles, and sexual orientation.

Since the first official case of AIDS appeared in the nation in 1985, the government has been under more pressure to promote education and prevention campaigns as some experts have suggested that the number of Malaysians infected with HIV could go as high as 300,000 by the year 2015.[16]

In 2006, the government launched a new comprehensive public campaign that includes therapy and needle exchange programs for drug addicts and free medications provided at government clinics.[16] However, in 2007, Malaysia's Ministry of Health was banned from advocating the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the disease due to a concern that such a campaign would be equated with a governmental endorsement of sexual conduct outside of a legal marriage.[17]

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]

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