Two Malaysian states are planning to increase their penalties for homosexuality, just a week after organisers of a gay arts festival were forced to cancel the event in Kuala Lumpur when police threatened a crackdown.
Homosexuality is punishable by law in Malaysia by caning and up to 20 years in jail, but religious authorities in the states of Pahang and Malacca are planning legal amendments that would give the Government additional ammunition, Reuters reports.
If the proposed changes came into force, a Muslim found guilty of homosexual acts could be punished under both federal and state religious charges, meaning that jail terms could run consecutively, resulting in lengthier sentences.
The new penalties would apply not only to gays but those who support them, according to Malacca Islamic Religious Department chairman and Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam.
“We want to put it in the enactment so that we can enforce it and bring them to our sharia [Islamic law] court. Then we can charge them for promoting or supporting these illegal activities,” he said.
In April this year, Malaysian authorities have sent 66 Muslim schoolboys to a gay ‘cure’ camp after school teachers identified them as being effeminate.
The four-day camp provided the boys with counselling on masculine behaviour and discouraged them from being gay, according to a education director from Terengganu state.
Gay rights advocates denounced the camp and saw it as a symptom of widespread homophobia in this Muslim-majority country.
The camp was meant “to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return,” state official Razali Daud told The Associated Press.
“Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future.”
It was the first such program in the conservative state.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called on Commonwealth nations to end laws targeting sexual minorities at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth last month.