LGBT rights in Malaysia

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LGBT rights in Malaysia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
Up to 20 years, fines and whippings.
Gender identity/expression -

LGBT rights are absent in Malaysia. Malaysia stands under heavy influence of Islam and homosexuality is technically illegal. LGBT Malaysians are often seen as immoral and treated as deviants and criminals. There is a national gay organization in this country, which receives little support. However, in practice more affluent Malaysian society is more tolerant of homosexuality than neighboring Indonesia, where it is not illegal.

As homosexuality is a crime, Malaysia does not recognize same-sex unions or have anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation or gender identity.

Laws against homosexuality

Section 377 of the penal code prohibits heterosexual and homosexual sodomy with punishments including up to twenty years in prison and or fines and whippings. Section 337a more narrowly prohibits acts of "gross indecency with another male person" with punishment including up to two years in prison[1].

In 1994, the government banned anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual from appearing on the state controlled media[2].

In 1995, the state of Selangor Religious Affairs Minister praised the Islamic Badar vigilante groups who had organized in 1994 to assist in the arrest of 7,000 for engaging in "unIslamic" activities such as homosexuality[2].

In 2001 the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stated that the country will deport any visiting foreign cabinet ministers, or diplomat who is gay[3]. Mohamad also warned gay ministers in foreign countries not to bring along their partners while visiting the nation.[4] Mahathir's daughter, Marina Mahathir, has called for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation.[5]

In 2005 the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) chief Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor stated that the Navy would never accept homosexuals[6].

In 2009 an official government health minister stated that homosexuality and masturbation helped to spread the H1N1 infection[7].

Gender identity/expression

Cross-dressing in public is also a crime under vague laws against public immorality. 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[2].

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

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)[8].

As of 2007, none of the major or minor political parties have endorsed or spoken against gay rights in their party's manifesto or platform.

Prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim

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.[9]

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"[10].

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[11].

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.[12] However, he was released on bail and won the campaign for his former seat in Parliament, and currently leads the opposition in Parliament.

LGBT organizations in Malaysia

In the early 1990s, a group called the Pink Triangle Malaysia was organized to "providing HIV/AIDS education, prevention, care and support programmes, sexuality awareness and empowerment programmes for vulnerable communities in Malaysia". "PT Malaysia", is one of several organizations in the nation that do not lobby for LGBT rights, but instead focus on social networks and HIV/AIDS education; i.e. the "LPG" (founded in 1998), and the "Pelangi Community Foundation".

HIV/AIDS issues

Since the first official case of AIDS appeared in the nation, 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[13].

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[13]. However, the public discussion of sexuality remains a taboo topic. In 2007, the Malaysia's Ministry of Health was banned from supporting the usage of condoms to prevent the spread of the disease out of a concern that such a campaign would be equated with a government endorsement of sexual conduct outside of a legal marriage[14].

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