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LGBT caught in a political football game

A lot of attention regarding Malaysian gays has been raised recently in an Umno controlled newspaper. The paper investigated the ways gays communicate, and interviewed a syariah lawyer and a counsellor.

They have been so actively carrying out the investigation into gays recently after the Sexualiti Merdeka’s judicial review on ban was rejected.

The application for a judicial review hearing was rejected by Judge Rohanna Yusuf. The judge upheld two grounds:

1. The police has power to ban under S27A (1)(C) of the Police Act 1967.

2. The issue is academic because the application was filed after the supposed event of Sexualiti Merdeka was over.

We all know, the police has a wide, absolute discretion under section 27A(1)(C) that the police has power to ban “an activity likely to be prejudicial to the interest and security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to excite a disturbance of the peace”.

However, the judge would have probably overlooked the point that such a decision by the police has grossly denied the right of assembly of the attendees. Note it is ‘attendees’, which means it includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transexuals (LGBT) as well as non-LGBTs.

And as one of the authors has pointed out in her article, there is no reason to justify the festival as being ‘prejudicial to the interest and security of Malaysia’. The appeal must be filed to review this ruling.

Here, we can see two opposing camps. The Umno controlled newspaper is trying to steer the matter using religious texts. The interviewees argue based on the holy Quran. In addition, the recent walkout by 57 nation of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation during the United Nation Human Rights panel on gay rights has clearly positioned that the Muslims majority countries do not support gay rights.

The question thus posted to us is how we resolve this issue in Malaysia. In my view, a public debate based on the scientific findings must be held on an equal platform in the mainstream.

Whichever parties, either from Barisan or Pakatan, that picks up this issue, would definitely earn the respect and command of the majority of the society. This is because LGBTs exist in every single aspect of our lives. Political parties should try resolving this issue instead of politicising it using religious arguments.

There is a list of issues to be debated over. For example, the psychotherapy of gays forced to convert to straight, the right to consensual sex within private areas, the right to marry with same sex partner, etc. Policy makers cannot close an eye to the existence of LGBT as they are not closeted anymore. LGBT issues cannot be swept under the carpet again and again.  

It is time to take the lead in change through either transformation or reformation. Sometimes, it appears to me that religions have served as tools to divide the nation instead of preaching love and peace in this beautiful land of Malaysia.

The fundamental underlying principle of resolving this is to recognise the mutual existence of the gays as a group and part of society.

The spirit of the Malaysian constitution should be upheld by interpreting the fundamental rights and applying it to the practical aspects of LGBTs in their lives. Religious arguments coupled with the unrelated support of article 3(1) of our constitution are merely used to divide us to fit their political motives, to fish the different camps for votes.

Malaysians are a very tolerant lot living. The nature of inclusiveness must prevail over the fight and shout by hypocrites.

Now, the LGBT movement in Malaysia has begun through the legal battle. Therefore the courts should be more aware of the legal developments surrounding the LGBT issue around the world.

I would only hope that the coming government after the general election would be able to resolve, or at least to listen, to the grievances the LGBTs that have been silenced all this while.