Malaysian authorities have released a video suggesting that sexual orientation can be changed with “extensive training and guidance”.
The Malaysian Islamic Development Department, known as Jakim, released the three-minute video which encourages the Islamic community to “be patient” with LGBTQI Malaysians and urging LGBTQI people to repent.
Despite being a predominantly Islamic country, Malaysia still has British colonial-era laws that criminalise gay sex with punishment, including fines and up to 20 years in prison. LGBTQI people have no legal protections against discrimination and face demonisation from the public and politicians.
Jakim’s video told LGBTQI people to repent their homosexuality and fulfil their sexual desires through marriage and fasting, according to the Wellston Journal.
The original video shared on Facebook has received mixed feedback, with some praising Jakim for what they perceived as a relatively positive stance towards LGBT+ people.
“Color me surprised with rainbow colors. JAKIM actually came out with a video that is non-hateful of the LGBT community,” wrote Luq Harith.
“Not impressed with the content but kudos to JAKIM for focusing on not being hateful or violent towards LGBTQ people,” wrote Huda Mutalib.
However, other users were quick to criticise Jakim for blatantly encouraging reparative therapy and suggesting a person’s sexual orientation can be changed.
“This video is going to make people believe that there is a way to ‘change ‘homosexuals into heterosexuals. No way you can do that,” wrote Sheelabanu Sri Jaya.
“We set such a low bar for Muslims to get them to act like decent human beings. Calling for reparative therapy is not exactly good intentions, let alone genuine respect that LGBTQI people should live their lives the way they want it to be,” wrote Zulaikha Mohammad.
“So JAKIM’s strategy is to use compassion to lure Muslim LGBT to the ‘right ‘path while enacting anti-LGBT Syariah laws to punish and ruin the lives of those who decide to follow their heart and their own conviction,” wrote Raymond Tai.
Earlier in March this year, Asian human rights groups including the Pusat Komas and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, as well as the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and the pro-LGBT ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, voiced concern over an “insidious” government crackdown on LGBT+ people in Malaysia.
In a joint statement, the groups accused the Malaysian government of attempting to “further polarise public views on LGBTIQ rights by leaning on conservative sentiments,” adding that “It is an insidious attempt to weaken the existing solidarity between LGBTIQ activists and the feminist movement.”
The insidious attempts to crackdown have now become a reality, with five men in Malaysia being jailed, fined and caned last month for attempting homosexual sex in the Muslim-majority country.
The men, aged 26 to 37, received six strokes of the cane each in a prison outside Kuala Lumpur for attempting “intercourse against the order of nature”, an offence under Syariah law, Amnesty International said.
The men admitted to committing the offence in an apartment last year, with an Islamic court also fining the men and sentencing them to jail terms of up to seven months each.
Amnesty International’s Malaysia executive director, Ms Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu remarked that these punishments were the real injustice.
“These vicious punishments… are the actual crimes being committed here,” she said.