Malaysia police detain 20 at LGBTQ+ Halloween party for ‘cross-dressing’ and ‘encouraging vice’

Members of a Kuala Lumpur party being arrested by Malaysia authorities.

Malaysia Islamic authorities have detained 20 people after raiding an LGBTQ+ Halloween party.

The arrests were made on Saturday (29 October) after Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department officers (Jawi) raided a party at Kuala Lumpur venue REXKL, for what authorities claim are offences under Sharia law.

According to those involved in the raid, at least 40 religious officers backed by police raided the packed evening venue.

Authorities claim they checked at least 53 individuals during the raid and divided them into two groups – Muslim and other faiths.

The Muslim group was then detained, with identification details recorded by Malaysia police.

Activist Numan Afifi told AFP some were arrested for “cross-dressing”, while others were detained for “encouraging vice”.

“They [authorities] isolated the Muslim participants and identified anyone that did not dress according to the gender that they thought them to be,” he added. “But of course, it’s Halloween, people were dressing in costumes.”

Of those detained, 18 were questioned about the LGBTQ+ event by police on Monday (31 October) and have been asked to return for further enquiries according to Reuters.

Former Klang MP Charles Santiago condemned the arrests in a statement asking police to reconsider their priorities on LGBTQ+ arrests.

“This is harassment against a marginalised community. When will we learn to respect and accept people for who they are?” he said. “We have people who are still reeling from job losses, the ringgit is weak, the economy needs resuscitation, but you use resources to go after people who were at a Halloween party?

“I urge authorities to cease hunting [LGBTQ+ people] down as if they are criminals.”

Malaysia’s stagnant view on LGBTQ+ rights

Several human rights organisations have expressed concern over Malaysia’s incredibly archaic view on LGBTQ+ rights.

Currently, the country imprisons openly LGBTQ+ people, as well as preventing same-sex marriage and gender transition.

According to a survey from Ipsos in 2021, Malaysia is one of the worst countries in terms of public opinion on LGBTQ+ people.

In total, 65 per cent of Malaysian citizens believe same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry or obtain any kind of legal recognition such as a civil partnership.

Conversely, a mere eight per cent said they support same-sex marriage.

Not only does the country punish homosexuality with imprisonment, it actively supports conversion therapy centres with government funding.

A report from the Human Rights Watch found the Malaysian government funds state-sanctioned conversion therapy retreats which aim to “rehabilitate” LGBTQ+ people.

Despite claims by these institutions sexual orientation can be changed, LGBTQ+ identities cannot be cured as they are not diseases, nor are they mental illnesses.