Wearing a rainbow Swatch could land you with three years in jail in Malaysia


Wearing one of Swatch’s Pride-themed watches in Malaysia could now lead to three years in jail, with the government claiming the colourful watches are “harmful to morality”. 

The watches are part of the brand’s 2023 Pride collection, launched in May, which features six different watch faces in Pride colours. Each watch strap is made up of two bands that create the full Pride flag. 

According to CNN, anyone who wears, sells, imports or distributes the brand’s Pride-themed products in Malaysia faces not only three years in jail, but also a fine of up to 20,000 ringgit (around £3,400) if convicted. 

“Swatch products have been banned as they are detrimental, or possibly detrimental, to morality, the public interest and national interest by promoting, supporting and normalising the LGBTQ movement which is not accepted by the general public of Malaysia,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Thursday (10 August).

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, with gay sex punishable by fines and prison terms of up to 20 years. It is also one of only 13 countries worldwide that explicitly criminalises the gender expression of trans people. 

This year, the Global Trans Rights Index ranked Malaysia as the second worst country in the world in terms of trans rights, after Guyana. 

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The decision comes after 11 Swatch shops across Malaysia were raided by authorities in May due to “LGBT symbols” on products, with a reported $14,000 (around £11,300) worth of stock seized. 

Swatch Malaysia has reportedly since filed a High Court bid to challenge the raids. 

Regarding the government banning rainbow watches, Swatch told PinkNews that it was waiting for the pending hearing in the case.

Nick Hayek, the CEO of Swatch Group, did comment on the raids of Swatch stores in Malaysia in May, explaining that the brand “strongly contests” that the Pride collection “could be harmful”. 

“We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever,” Hayek said.

“In the contrary, Swatch gives always a positive message of joy in life. This has nothing political. 

“We wonder how the Bahagian Penguatkuasa Dan Kawalan, Kementerian Dalam Negeri will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that are showing up thousand times a year in the sky of Malaysia.”

The crackdown on Pride-themed Swatches comes as British band The 1975 have been threatened with legal action after frontman Matty Healy kissed his male bandmate on stage in Malaysia. 

Shortly after the kiss, the three-day Good Vibes Festival was cancelled, with The 1975 going on to cancel shows in Indonesia and Taiwan. 

Queer people in Malaysia have criticised Healy’s actions, claiming that his behaviour could lead to a crackdown on LGBTQ+ people in the country, and accusing him of having a “white saviour complex”. 

Rufus Sivaroshan, a queer Malaysian singer based in the US, told PinkNews: “I hate this bulls**t white saviour complex of people coming into regions like south-east Asia with no prior research whatsoever to what the culture is like, to what the repercussions of certain things are, come in and do this s**t and ruin it for not them but for the people [who] actually live there.”