“It’s a disease, not an attraction!”
This phrase is a common stereotype many Malaysians are used to hearing. Here, the “pathologization” of LGBT people is evident from a set of guidelines released by the health ministry in 2017. Public clinics associated Malaysians who had an “SSA” (same-sex-attraction) with “gender health problems”. Only 3 years ago, locals who identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were told to have “an abnormal medical disorder” or a “condition that negatively affected the structure of organisms” stated in the FMT news article published last month.
2017 is starting to sound a lot like the 19th century.
Last month, organizers of the International Women’s Day March in Kuala Lumpur, fought for equal rights and criticisms against LGBT participants. An article published by Star News describes thousands of women marching near Sogo KL, proudly raising colourful posters that championed gender equality, whilst loudly chanting expression like “End child marriage”, “Hidup Wanita!”, “Stop sexism” and “Jangan Kacau LGBT”. Thousands of strong, independent and open-minded women united with the goal to fight for rights that deeply resonated with them, in the hopes of regulating Malaysian laws on women rights and most importantly, LGBT rights
This was a huge deal, considering Malaysia’s controversial view on the LGBT community. However, this brave and reckless march was completely rejected by the government. Datuk Seri Dr. Mujahid Yusof called the event defending LGBT rights “an abuse of democratic space”. He added that the government would “never accept LGBT practices in the country”. Malaysia’s supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan, went on calling the combination of Women’s March and the LGBT followers “disgusting”. It is truly heartbreaking to see how society has grown to view the “unfamiliar” as “bad”, following anything other the standardized norms of society — unacceptable.
Do we fear what we don’t understand?
Malaysia, one of many countries that views life in a more conservative and old fashioned manner, criminalizes same-sex activity. Other countries in Asia, such as China, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Singapore all prohibit this. NQAPIA, an LGBT advocacy organization based in Asia, depicts the consequences and punishments followed by any homosexual interaction.
Criminalization, life imprisonment, painful lashings, military rejections, and death penalties are all “disciplinary” acts enforced for the greater good of these countries.
In Malaysia’s humans rights watch website, it declares that “any visible expression of an alternative sexuality or gender identity will be prosecuted under existing laws”, which again underlines how deeply appalled the government is by the LGBT community. Regardless of the 27 countries that have legalized same-sex marriage, Malaysia alongside many other Southeast Asian countries continue to live in a society, where people’s differences are punished through violence and extreme discipline.
The question is: Is it really fair to punish someone for simply loving another person?
This anti-LGBT perspective was essentially formed, as a result of Islam being Malaysia’s constitutional religion, in which homosexuality is forbidden. However, like any other religion, Islamic faith should refrain from using abusive conduct towards LGBT people. This includes violations that could psychologically and physically harm a person, such as: hate crimes, demanding money, and lashings. As stated by the United Nations in the Human rights itenary, “every human is entitled to social protection, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status”. Clearly, this basic human right is unjust for the LGBT community and appears to be rather mistreated.
In response to the question previously asked, it is never fair to punish someone for simply loving another person. Whether it’s for being of the same gender, having the same hair color, or even the same eye color — disciplining a person for doing something as natural as falling in love, an accomplishment anyone, regardless of their sexuality is bound to experience, is absolutely absurd. The Australian Psychological Society even states that being same-sex attracted is as normal as being attracted to the opposite sex, and that it’s not possible to force someone to change their sexuality through any psychological or medical means.
The LGBT community is not as accepted as it appears to be. Although, it has been legalised in many countries, including every state in North America, it’s still considered a “taboo” topic in Malaysia. Rather than being embraced and welcomed, people in the LGBT community are continuously violated and rejected by the government alongside the locals who have learned to view these people as “diseased” and “abnormal”. Thus, we must advocate and fight for the rights of these humans, who like everyone else just want to feel loved and accepted.
“All about Being Gay.” Sexuality | ReachOut Australia, 2019, au.reachout.com/articles/all-about-being-gay.
“Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, 2019, www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/.
Nqapia. “Fact Sheet: The State of LGBTQ Rights in Asia and the Pacific.” NQAPIA, 14 Feb. 2018, www.nqapia.org/wpp/state-of-lgbtq-rights-in-asia-and-the-pacific/.
Online, The Star. “Rally Organisers: We’re Fighting for Equal Rights.” Nation | The Star Online, 11 Mar. 2019, www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/03/11/rally-organisers-were-fighting-for-equal-rights/.
See, jade. “LGBT, Diversity Not Disease.” Free Malaysia Today, 5 Mar. 2019, www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/03/05/lgbt-diversity-not-disease/.
“World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Malaysia.” Human Rights Watch, 17 Jan. 2019, www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/malaysia.