Speaking at a press conference today, Prime Minister Mahathir elaborated on his views on the place of the LGBTQ+ community in 2018 Malaysia: “Our value system is not the same as the West,” he said.
Referring to recommendations made by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), he said that while they agree with suggestions made, our country and Western societies have apparently, not been created equal: “They are more free,” he added.
“There are certain things that we cannot accept, even though they are considered human rights in the west. This include LGBT and same-sex marriages.”
Suhakam, a government appointed commission, spoke out in defense of the community, who have recently been subject to several high-profile news stories including the caning of two women in Terengganu for purported lesbian activities, the removal of two photographs of LGBTQ+ activists from a non-political photo exhibit, and the savage attack endured by an activist for transgender rights by a group of men.
It seems that what PM Mahathir recognizes as “basic rights” in other countries just aren’t fit for Malaysians, offering little explanation beyond that it conflicted with the country’s value system.
Disappointing to say the least, as Suhakam had previously asked that Malaysia repeal laws that punish members of the LGBTQ+ community. Advice that was fallen on deaf, 93-year-old ears, it would seem.
However, one man in government is keen to repeal at least one law that affects some members of the community. Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the largest majority party in the government coalition, PKR, went on Al-Jazeera’s UpFront news program, and spoke out against the colonial era laws that criminalized gay sex. Excerpts were shared by online portal Free Malaysia Today.
“This is not only archaic, it is British colonial laws, introduced in India and replicated in Malaysia. It is completely unjust because one can be accused, and without any proper evidence, in my case clearly.”
Anwar has been imprisoned twice on sodomy charges; once under the tenure of Mahathir 1.0, and later while Najib was in office. He maintains that the charges were politically motivated.
Laws must be amended to ensure fairness, and one’s sexual orientation should not be questioned if it’s not displayed in public, he said.
Asked about his view on the caning of the two women, Anwar took a firm stance, using strong language to condemn the actions of the Sharia courts that charged them. Calling their interpretation of Islamic punishments a “party interpretation,” he said that they should be rejected.
“These are not even shariah hudud (stipulated punishments for crimes in the Quran), this is their interpretation, or some aspects of it,” he said.
The struggle for the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters continues.