Banned ‘Sexuality’ Festival in Malaysia Prompts Debate, Backlash
The Malaysian state of Malacca has said it will amend its state Islamic enactment to prosecute gays and lesbians by applying the same type of Shariah legal mechanism used against deviant Muslim sects.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said Wednesday 9 November:
“We will revise the current enactment to specifically deal with homosexuals and lesbians in the state, including groups that promote such uncanny sex.”
It was needed, he said, because no specific law at present exists to prosecute such groups.
“We will suggest the enactment to also cover bisexuals and transsexuals,” he said, adding that action could also be taken against any non-governmental organisation promoting and supporting such sexual practices.
“We don’t want such unsavoury culture creeping in and damaging the moral fabric of our society,” Mohd Ali said.
Mohd Ali also attacked the group Sisters in Islam, calling on them to drop the word “Islam” from their name as he claimed they had been “frequently issuing contradicting and confusing statements on Islam”. Sisters in Islam is one of the groups who supported the banned ‘Seksualiti Merdeka’ festival.
Seksualiti Merdeka has been held since 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, and represents a coalition of Malaysian NGOs (including Malaysian Bar Council, SUARAM, Empower, PT Foundation, United Nations, Amnesty International) and individuals. Apart from the annual festival, they also organize workshops, talks, film screenings and letter writings. It was banned by Kuala Lumpur City Hall who vowed to scupper any attempts at reviving or promoting the “immoral” event.
Community still has prominent supporters
Fallout from the ban continues after police called in for questioning a number of prominent supporters of the event.
Malaysia Chronicle said that lying behind the action was rival Malay parties Umno and PAS “trying to out-Islamize each other over the [banned] event.” There have been a number of noisy protests against Seksualiti Merdeka organised by the parties and Islamist groups.
Reacting to the backlash, Marina Mahathir, the high-profile daughter of ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad, has warned the authorities and “troublemakers” alike not to make scapegoats of Bar Council chairman Datuk S. Ambiga and steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah, Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez and Seksualiti Merdeka founder Pang Khee Teik, all of whom the police called in.
At a heated press conference on Monday she said:
“For the struggle, ask me. I have been defending the LGBT community’s rights for over 20 years now. In fact, I defend the rights of all who have been discriminated against, the poor and everyone else. So if there is any discrimination or violence against anyone, I will continue to defend their rights. That’s it. Do you understand?”
She threatened to sue Umno-controlled TV3 for describing Seksualiti Merdeka as a “free sex festival”.
“I am here only as a supporter because two years ago, I officiated Seksualiti Merdeka without any incident. It is an event to explain and educate them of their rights within the laws, and not outside,” said Marina.
“So I am very angry, very angry, there are no words to describe, at certain parties calling this a free sex festival. You have nothing better to do? Nowhere here is free sex allowed. Are you crazy to imagine this?”
Said Malaysia Chronicle:
“There is growing disquiet that the Umno groups as well as PAS have over-reached their boundaries, and needed to be reined and taken to task for their fanaticism.”
The opposition People’s Justice Party (PKR) of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has defended Seksualiti Merdeka.
PKR vice president N Surendran told Malaysia Chronicle:
“Police had no business banning the event in the first place. They acted unlawfully and stupidly. The BN Home Ministry and police leadership are a major threat to the freedom of the people. They treat the Constitution like trash, while pretending to uphold the law. In due course, they will have to answer for their misdeeds.”
“If you want to be gay, bisexual or (have) any sexual preference, and if it does not harm anybody, you are entitled to that choice.” But, he added at a press conference Tuesday, “If you want to practise and enjoy the freedom in terms of a festival, then it attracts a lot of attention and people may not be very happy.”
Seksualiti Merdeka’s organizers said:
We are Malaysian citizens who are being denied our rights to our identity and self-determination.
The false allegations and ill-intended remarks made to incite hate towards us are completely unjustified. They have further marginalized a group of Malaysians that have long suffered severe marginalization in society. As a United Nations Human Rights Council member, the Malaysian government should be ashamed for endorsing and encouraging such intimidation and scare tactics.
Image Seksualiti Merdeka