Malaysia: Respect Rights of LGBT People

Published: December 5, 2012

(New York) – The Malaysian government should end rights-violating and discriminatory government policies that vilify members of Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Malaysian law, policies, and practices violate the internationally protected rights of LGBT people. In July 2012, Najib made public statements against the LGBT community that facilitate discriminatory activities by government and police officials.

“Prime Minister Najib’s claims to promote diversity in Malaysia ring hollow when he publicly calls for discrimination against the LGBT community,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “And Najib’s actions against LGBT people are a glaring contradiction to his self-proclaimed profile as a ‘global moderate’ leader.”

In two speeches in 2012, Najib singled out the LGBT community as a threatening “deviant culture,” and said that such deviance was to have no place in a Malaysia under his leadership. The first speech was in June at the launch of a book of Najib’s collected speeches and messages, The Agenda of Islam in National Transformation, and the other in July to 11,000 imams and mosque members.

Government actions and policies against the LGBT community in Malaysia include: the government shutdown of the November 2011 Seksualiti Merdeka (Sexual Diversity) Festival; a government program to train volunteers to “convert gays”; and the public recommendation by Deputy Education Minister Dr. Mohd Puad Zarkashi that educating parents to recognize “symptoms” of gay or lesbian orientation could be effective in fighting increase of this “unhealthy phenomenon among students.”

The government should also act to repeal laws criminalizing homosexual relations between consenting adults such as article 377 of the Malaysian Penal Code on “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” and replace the provision on non-consensual relations with a gender-neutral rape law. Revoking section 377 would free Malaysia’s legal system from a colonial past and historical prejudices.

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