‘We hope they keep their word’: Malaysian officials promise to remove offensive phrasing from gay prevention contest

Contestants were invited to submit a video addressing categories, including “gender confusion”, and suggest how these could be “prevented or controlled”

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 10:54pm

Malaysian officials who launched a controversial video contest ­offering US$1,000 cash prizes to explain how to “prevent” homosexuality have agreed to remove offensive wording after widespread opposition, a LGBT activist said on Friday.

The competition sparked outrage from rights activists who said such a move would further spread fear among Malaysia’s LGBT community.

Contestants were invited to submit a short video clip addressing various categories, including homosexuality or “gender confusion”, and offer suggestions as to how these could be “prevented or controlled” as well as “issues and consequences”.

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But Nisha Ayub, Malaysia’s leading LGBT activist, said after a meeting with ministry officials on Wednesday, that “we all agreed that anything to do with LGBT ‘prevention’ will be removed”. The category of “gender confusion” will also be changed to “gender and sexuality”, she added.

However, Malaysia’s Deputy-Director of Health Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, said the meeting “successfully cleared the misunderstandings and collectively improvements were made to the competition guideline”.

Human Rights Watch has crit­icised the contest and called on the ministry to “clarify to the ­Malaysian public that sexual and gender diversity cannot be ‘prevented’ or ‘controlled’”.

Zaki Arzmi, a Malaysian Aids Council spokesperson, said: “We were told it was not their intention to discriminate ... We hope they keep their word.”

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The guidelines on the ministry’s website had not been amended on Friday morning, but Nisha and Zaki said they were told it could take a few days.

Other categories of the video competition include sex and the internet, reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases.

Homosexuality is forbidden in Malaysia, where laws criminalising sodomy can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment and fines.