Study: In post-GE14 Malaysia, more personal freedom but tolerance took a dive

Zurairi Ar
Malaysia was ranked 119th out of 167 societies across the world in ‘personal freedom’, which was the country’s worst pillar out of the 12 that makes up the Index. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 ― Malaysia saw a marked drop in social tolerance this year compared to last year even as personal freedom rose, according to the global Prosperity Index 2019 released by London-based think-tank Legatum Institute.

Malaysia was ranked 119th out of 167 societies across the world in “personal freedom”, which was the country’s worst pillar out of the 12 that makes up the Index.

In comparison, Malaysia performed strongly in “economic quality” and “enterprise conditions” at 27th place for both. As a whole, Malaysia was ranked 41st out 167 in the Prosperity Index.

Even as Malaysia performed poorly in the “personal freedom” pillar, it was the country’s best result so far. It ranked 127th last year, and a dismal 131st back in 2009.

Despite that, Malaysia’s “social tolerance” ― one of the elements in “personal freedom” ― fell sharply in 2019, ranking 145th among all the societies with a score of 2.9. Just a year ago in 2018, Malaysia was ranked 99th with a score of 5.3.

Between 2015 and 2018, Malaysia had never reached a rank below 100th place in “social tolerance”.

Three indicators makes up “social tolerance”: perceived tolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, of ethnic minorities, and of immigrants.

In all three indicators, Malaysia’s rank drastically fell in 2019.

In tolerance of LGBT, Malaysia fell from 82nd place in 2018 to 159th. When it comes to ethnic minorities, from 46th to 90th; and for immigrants, from 139th to 156th over the same period.

This comes as the Index showed that tolerance of the LGBT community has risen in almost every region of the world over the last decade.

In Malaysia, it has pretty much stayed the same ― the country was ranked 158th when it comes to tolerance of the LGBT back in 2009, although it ranked at 79th in 2016 and 2017.

Earlier this week, transgender activist Nisha Ayub said many voted in the new Pakatan Harapan administration last year for reforms and inclusivity, but it had so far dismissed any hope of recognising even the basic rights of a transgender person, or anyone from the LGBT community.

The founder of transgender rights group Justice for Sisters said government should start viewing the LGBT community through a human rights lens rather than a religious one.

The Index had named Iceland as the most tolerant country towards the LGBT, while Tajikistan placed the last.

Despite the increase in tolerance of the LGBT, Legatum Institute said the freedom to speak, assemble and associate, has become more restricted across the globe over the past 10 years, with 122 countries seeing a deterioration.

Overall, it said the world is more prosperous than it has ever been, with Denmark the strongest performer ― although the gap between the strongest and weakest performing countries continues to widen.

The Index was calculated using data from several global sources. For “personal freedom”, these included Gallup polls, Freedom House, and World Justice Project.

For “social tolerance”, Gallup had asked respondents whether their area is a good place to live for the LGBT, ethnic minorities, or immigrants.

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