The rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia are still subject to existing laws in the country, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mujahid Yusof Rawa on 23 July.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday, he reasoned that the government took note the majority of Malaysians’ backlash against public expressions of the LGBT community.
Translated from the Malay language, he announced to the House: “Do not say that [the] Pakatan Harapan [government] supports [the] LGBT [community].”
However, Mujahid reassured that the marginalised community’s fundamental human rights will still be protected under the Federal Constitution.
Mujahid, who is the Minister-in-charge of Islamic Affairs, reiterated his previous stance, saying that the LGBT community should not be subjected to discrimination, particularly in the workplace, as he fears that the community, particularly trans persons, will be forced to seek sex work as a result.
He added that the Government is channelling great effort into assisting the community out of the “illicit” industry.
Mujahid’s statements were made in response to a question posed by the Jerantut Member of Parliament, Ahmad Nazlan Idris, who is also a Barisan Nasional representative, regarding the new Government’s plans in tackling the “spread” of the LGBT “culture”, which supposedly runs contrary to the Federal Constitution’s provision that places Islam as the official religion of the Federation.
Mujahid also mentioned that there are laws to curb the spread of the LGBT “culture” on social media, which include state enactments that prohibit Muslim men from dressing up as women, among others.
“The LGBT issue is not one that only affects Muslims — we must examine how it affects non-Muslims.”
“We need to do this in order to prevent us from being swept up by this foreign culture,” he said.
The LGBT community has been under the spotlight after the recent case of Numan Afifi, who was pressured by the majority of the public to step down from his post as the interim Press Secretary of the Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
While Numan, who is the President of PELANGI Campaign, an organisation dedicated to championing LGBTQ+ rights in Malaysia, has stated that his appointment as Press Officer was never an official one, his name was reportedly listed on the ministry’s website as “special officer“ before it was subsequently removed after public backlash.
Saddiq was condemned by LGBTQ+ activists and laypersons on social media for his alleged “snub” against Numan in the controversy, stating that the former’s silence regarding the flak received by the latter from netizens was disappointing.
Currently, Malaysia still outlaws anal intercourse under the Penal Code, which is assumed to be primarily directed to males who engage in intercourse with other males:
Carnal intercourse against the order of nature
377A. Any person who has sexual connection with another person by the introduction of the penis into the anus or mouth of the other person is said to commit carnal intercourse against the order of nature.
If found guilty, subjects “will be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be punished with whipping”, according to s.377B of the Penal Code.
Singapore has a similar law in its Penal Code. However, it appears to be more gender-specific, although ambiguous as to what “gross indecency” refers to, at first reading:
Outrages on decency
377A. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.
In 2014 cases to determine whether s.377A is constitutional, the Court had reasoned that while Article 12 specifically bans discrimination based on religion, race, descent or place of birth, the words “gender”, “sex” and “sexual orientation” are not included as a part of the provision:
(2) Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.