A Malaysian minister has slammed local officials sending 66 boys identified by school teachers as effeminate to a four-day masculinity “self-development course” to prevent them being gay or transgender. The women’s minister said the move is not only harmful, but it also illegal and violates child welfare laws.
From The BBC:
But the women’s minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, said singling out these children based on perceived feminine mannerisms was traumatising and harmful to their mental health.
The camp violates the Child Act, which protects children without prejudice, she said.
Gay rights groups have also criticised the measure, saying it promotes homophobia in the Muslim-majority country where gay sex is still illegal.
The schoolboys allegedly displayed “feminine mannerisms” – though educators in the conservative state of Terengganu did not detail what they were, the BBC’s Jennifer Pak reports from Kuala Lumpur.
They blame parents for encouraging boys to develop feminine traits, by dressing them up in girls’ clothing at a young age.
The boys, all between the ages of 13–17, were not forced to go, officials are quick to point out, but they say that as educators they have a responsibility to children to prevent them from reaching “the point of no return.”
Sodomy is still criminalized in Malaysia with up to 20 years in prison, however the statute is not uniformly enforced. Transgender people can also be prosecuted under laws that restrict apparent gender non-conforming behavior.