Sinar Harian newspaper aims to help readers identify people from the LGBTI community
"Homosexuals like going to the gym to feast their eyes on watching men and lesbians like hugging and holding hands, " that's what Sinar Harian publilshed, the country's largest newspaper.
The article presents a list of bullet points that highlight the qualities supposedly common in homosexuals making it easier to identify them within the community.
According to Sinar Harian’s article, gay men love going to the gym, not to exercise, but rather to look at other men; they wear tight clothing to show off their bodies, love beards, and wear expensive brands; their eyes light up when they see men that are physically attractive.
Lesbians, meanwhile, love being alone, despise men, and hold hands, or hug, other women while walking. However, after February 9th, people’s reactions to said article have surfaced.
Activist and social network enthusiast Arwind Kumar argued in a video that "there are more important issues in this country that need to be addressed. If you really want to educate society, then why don’t you explain the profile of a pedophile, an abuser a murderer, kidnapper, [ those] who actually endanger the lives of others. How the hell is a gay person endangering your life?”, stated Kumar in a video that already has over 150,000 views and comments backing him up.
The article has generated criticism and has been ridiculed by activists who said they were endangering the lives of those belonging to the LGBTI community. Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and is punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years; the penal code criminalizes said sexual behavior "against the order of nature".
In Malaysia, crimes against members of the LGBTI are not punished due to the same penal code that favors the "natural" order of relationships; the LGBTI population has not been able to enjoy, thoroughly, their rights.
Malaysia has experienced a growing religious fundamentalism in recent years causing friction between conservative forces and those fighting for more collective rights. The predominantly Muslim country has opposed to the LGBTI community several times in recent years, leaving the conservative Muslim community with the upper hand due to its influence on political decisions.
In June 2017, the Ministry of Health of the country launched a nationwide competition entitled "National Creative Video Contest on Sexual and Reproductive Health Adolescents" in order to ‘prevent’ homosexuality and multiplication of transgender people in the country. Not only was it internationally criticized, but it divided the local society.
That same year, the country 's Minister of Foreign Affairs rejected the Walt Disney film "Beauty and the Beast" because it contained a ‘gay moment’. Despite the demands of the Malaysian Censorship Board, Disney refused to delete the scene. The screening of the film was delayed but was finally projected without cuts.
In 2015, Malaysia's highest court upheld a ruling that banned being transvestite and penalized it by imprisonment. It launched an "anti-gay camp" in 2011 due to the fact that more than 60 male teenagers were "too feminine".
Despite criticism, Sinar Harian has not yet issued a response to the controversy.
Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto