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Saturday 10 October 2009

Malaysia: Truly Awful

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 27th September 2009

Malaysia is one of the world's unacknowledged human rights blackspots and the situation of LGBT Malaysians is no exception. How bad is it?

Like other former British colonial possessions, Malaysia has a Section 377 (anti-'sodomy' law) - which carries a potential penalty of twenty years imprisonment. As well as this generic ban against straight or gay anal sex, Section 337a specifically bans other forms of gay male sex.

As if that weren't bad enough, Kelantan (1993) and Terengganu (2002) states have imposed sharia law within their borders, so theoretically male homosexuality may be a capital offence. In 1994, the Malaysian government presided over a law that banned LGBT media coverage. In 1995, the Religious Affairs Minister of Selangor state said that he supported the work of Islamic Badr vigilante groups against unislamic activities... including homosexuality. In 2001, then Prime Minister Mohammed Mathathir threatened to deport any gay Cabinet Ministers, ambassadors or their partners if they arrived in his country. In 2005, Royal Malaysian Navy head Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor said that gay sailors were not welcome.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been a particular target of malicious harrassment on the basis of Sections 337a and 377. He has been imprisoned twice, once in 2000, for a nine year sentence, later quashed by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2004, and then only last year, during Malaysia's general election. The governing United Malaysian National Organisation has a "Peoples Antihomosexual Voluntary Movement" attached to it. As for HIV/AIDS, it is estimated that 300,000 people will be HIV+ or PLWAs by 2015.

While needle exchanges and antiretroviral medications were introduced in 2006, the Malaysian Ministry of Health is forbidden to distribute condoms.

Granted, that isn't the only problem that Malaysia faces. It is far from a multiparty democracy, and its absence of media freedom, an independent judiciary and exercise of draconian censorship are particular problems for all Malaysians. Its Internal Security Act 1957 allows detention without trial, as does antidrugs legislation. Its practices are immune to judicial review.

Craig Young - 27th September 2009

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