The MSMGF Calls on Malaysian Authorities to Lift Ban on Seksualiti Merdeka Festival
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) stands with PT Foundation, APCOM (Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health) and other organizations in calling on the Malaysian authorities to lift the ban on the country’s annual Seksualiti Merdeka festival.
The three-year old Seksualiti Merdeka festival aims to promote awareness of discrimination, harassment and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Malaysia. This year’s event, themed “Queer without Fear,” was to kick off on November 9. On November 3, however, the police issued a ban on all activities related to the festival, citing concerns regarding “public order” and “religious freedom.”
By promoting the healthy expression of sexuality and highlighting the impact of homophobia and violence, events like Seksualiti Merdeka advance the human rights of LGBT citizens and help to fight the spread of HIV. Open discussions about sex and sexuality are essential to successful HIV prevention programming, as is addressing the effects of stigma and discrimination, which have been strongly correlated with HIV risk among men who have sex with men (MSM). Studies have shown that MSM in Malaysia are at significantly increased risk for HIV; governments and authorities must be supporting events like Seksualiti Merdeka, not shutting them down.
In addition to stifling the beneficial effects of a festival like Seksualiti Merdeka, actively banning LGBT events helps contribute to an environment of hostility toward sexual and gender minorities, populations that are already marginalized. Singling out LGBT events for government action validates homophobic discrimination, reinforcing the idea that abuse of LGBT populations is acceptable. This drives MSM and transgender people underground and away from lifesaving services, making it extremely difficult to connect them with HIV prevention, care and treatment.
To promote the health and human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Malaysia, the MSMGF joins local and regional partners in calling for the authorities to lift the ban on Seksualiti Merdeka.
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is an expanding network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM.