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Malaysia: Reform discriminatory laws, promote tolerance

On Thursday, 7 November, an Islamic court in Selangor convicted five men for “attempting intercourse against the order of nature”, imposing sentences of caning and six or more months imprisonment. In the intervening days, hateful and discriminatory messages have been directed at LGBTQI people, including by public officials.  

Nalini Elumalai, ARTICLE 19’s Malaysia Programme Officer, said:

“Malaysia’s discriminatory legal framework offers many opportunities for those wishing to persecute and harass minority communities. Wide-ranging legal reforms are necessary to uphold the rights of the LGBTQI community and other marginalized groups in Malaysia.

“The court’s decision to convict these men is a tangible manifestation of growing anti-LGBTQI sentiment in Malaysia. Intolerance seems to be gaining traction in online spaces, courtrooms and other public forums. The Pakatan Harapan government should act to ensure that discrimination is never given official sanction and consider positive measures to foster tolerance, including facilitating interfaith dialogue and passing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

“It’s worrying that public figures are contributing to the stream of criticism and hate being directed at LGBTQI people. Elected officials and prominent individuals should use their positions to bend public sentiment towards tolerance, not prejudice.”