Malaysia, is set to implement harsher penalties for those found to be insulting Islam by “promoting the LGBT lifestyle.”
According to a Reuters report, these amendments were proposed by a specialist government task force, that established solely to address LGBTQI issues. The task force also investigate what constraints authorities may encounter when punishing members of the LGBTQI community.
InterPride, said it strongly condemned the actions of the Malaysian government and called upon other wold leaders to do the same.
Malaysia seeks new laws to punish people who promote LGBTQIA+ “lifestyle” on social media. We strongly condemn the recent actions by the Malaysian government and call on world leaders to do the same. Read More: https://t.co/PI27C00dzl #LGBT #Malaysia #Asia #StopTheHate @PinkNews pic.twitter.com/kCypweG98y
— InterPride (@InterPride) June 29, 2021
It is believed this most recent attack on the rights of Malaysian LGBTQI communities, was made in response to social media posts celebrating Pride Month. Deputy Minister in charge of religious affairs, Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, stating that the posts celebrating Pride “insulted” the Islam religion.
“We have found that certain parties uploaded statuses and graphics that insulted Islam on social media in their effort to promote the LGBT lifestyle,” Shaary said.
If the law is enacted, it would allow enforcement bodies to take action against any Muslim “who insults the religion of Islam” and commits other sharia criminal offenses “by using network facilities, network services or application services.”
The proposal also seeks to develop “a comprehensive Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or guideline on procedures to deal with offences in relation to insult of religion and promotion of LGBT lifestyle.”
Human Rights Group Condemn Proposed New Law
In a memorandum, local human rights groups in Malaysia have said that the proposes new law would a wide ranging impact on the LGBTQI+ community.
“At a time when Malaysia should be focused on the post-pandemic recovery process, it’s decision makers must focus on legislative amendments that serve and benefit everyone, without further marginalising communities that are already vulnerable,” the joint statement said.
“Provisions like ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘encouraging vice’ under the state Syariah laws are used arbitrarily and expansively by state Islamic departments against LGBTIQ persons… LGBTIQ persons already lack access to justice because of criminalisation and the multiple forms of discrimination that they face.”
“We are concerned that the increasing hostile environment against LGBTQ persons will legitimize use of other laws and punitive measures against human rights defenders. We reiterate our call for the Prime Minister’s Department to drop the proposed amendments given the adverse impacts on all Muslim persons and LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia,” the statement added.
Malaysia Criminalises Same-Sex Relations
Although convictions are rare in the Muslim majority country, both sodomy and same sex acts remain illegal under Islamic law. The maximum sentence that Sharia courts can impose for these acts is up to three years in prison, fines of up to RM 5,000 (AUD$1,600) and caning of up to six strokes.
Before 2018, it is believed Malaysian courts had never actually imposed caning sentences for same sex acts. However that year two women were accused of attempted same-sex relations and sentenced to caning. In November 2019, the Selangor Sharia court sentenced five men to fines, imprisonment, and caning.
In response to this, and other recent attacks made by the Malaysian Government, Neela Goshal, associate LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch has said that “Malaysia’s state and federal statutes that criminalize LGBT people are already out of bounds with regard to international law, and the government seems to be sinking even deeper in its disregard for human rights.
“Rather than enhancing penalties for actions that harm no one, the government should repeal such penalties.”