Human rights groups voice concern over anti-LGBT crackdown in Malaysia

Malaysia A LGBT pride flag flies at the women's march in Malaysia on March 9.

Asian human rights leaders have voiced concern over an “insidious” government crackdown on LGBT+ people in Malaysia.

Experts voiced concern over a reported police probe into an International Women’s Day protest that included LGBT+ rights protesters.

Government minister Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa had called for “firm action” against the March 9 protest, adding that “LGBT practice will not be accepted at all in this country.”

His comments were condemned by Malaysian human rights groups Pusat Komas and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, as well as the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and the pro-LGBT ASEAN SOGIE Caucus.

‘Insidious’ attack on LGBT+ campaigners condemned

In a joint statement, the groups said: “The recent Women’s March was a peaceful rally, during which one of the main demands were to end all forms of violence and discrimination [for all].

“The march itself and all the demands made during the gathering fall fully within the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed for all Malaysian citizens. However, the response to the march has not done so.”

The groups accused the government of attempting to “further polarise public views on LGBTIQ rights by leaning on conservative sentiments,” adding: “It is an insidious attempt to weaken the existing solidarity between LGBTIQ activists and the feminist movement.”

Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad

Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad (KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty)

The statement notes a spate of “discriminatory statements and actions against the LGBTIQ community” since the current government took power in May 2018.

The human rights groups flagged a 2018 raid on a gay bar, and the government’s censorship of an art exhibition, forcing organisers to remove rainbow flags and portraits of LGBT+ activists.

The statement also condemned the caning of two women accused of performing lesbian sex, and linked a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment to a surge in anti-LGBT hate crimes.

The statements adds: “We call on the Government of Malaysia to put a halt to the persecution of the LGBTIQ community, and to take immediate steps to improve the human rights protection of all people in the country.”

Malaysia Prime Minister: LGBT+ rights are ‘Western values’

It is already illegal to be gay in Malaysia, but the current government has pursued a hardline stance on the issue.

Speaking in October, Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad claimed that LGBT+ rights is a part of “Western values.”

According to the Bangkok Post and Nikkei Asian Review, he said: “Sometimes Asians accept Western values without questioning. We should be free not to change our values according to their wishes.”

He continued: “At this moment, we do not accept LGBT, but if they [the West] want to accept, that is their business. Don’t force it on us.

“The institution of marriage, the institution of the family has now been disregarded in the West. Why should we follow that? Our value system is as good.

“If [the West] one day decided to walk around naked, do we have to follow?”