An education department in one Malaysian state is sending effeminate boys to a boot camp to change their behavior, a move that’s drawn fire from educators and activists.
The Terengganu state Education Department picked 66 boys for the camp this month, part of a program to help boys deal with identity crises, media in the Asian nation reported.
The camp offers physical training and other activities and is designed to prevent the boys from developing feminine traits, The Star newspaper reported, quoting Razali Daud, the education department’s director
"The boys involved were selected from most schools in the state," Daud is quoted as saying. "They were carefully vetted before a final selection was made."
Daud said there could be big problems for such boys if their behavior was not addressed. He cited a couple of factors contributing to the issue — parents dressing boys in girl’s clothing "as they had really wanted a girl" or boys "surrounded by female siblings."
The move smacks of homophobia to many.
Donna Guest, deputy director of the Asia-Pacific program at Amnesty International, deplored the action, which "feeds into gender stereotyping and homophobia."
Malaysia is a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and an article in that convention calls on countries to ensure that gender stereotyping does not occur, she said.
"Starting a re-education camp or boot camp is directly counter to that. It goes to encouraging discrimination against all people because of their sexual orientation."
Guest also noted that homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.
"Amnesty would oppose that and urges the government to repeal those provisions in the law," she said, adding that "anyone who is arrested merely for being gay we would consider as prisoners of conscience, they should be released immediately non-conditionally."
Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil said the ministry views the move with "alarm and great concern" and said such boot camps should be abolished.
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