A group consisting of 28 human rights NGOs and a political party have condemned the conviction of five men for attempting gay sex against the order of nature.
In a statement today, the group noted an increase hostility and alarming trend of prosecution against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons in the country.
The group, which comprises Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Tenaganita and Parti Sosialis Malaysia, among others, said the five men were detained following a raid at a private function last year.
"The heavy-handed punishments to teach others a cautionary tale or as deterrence is a cause for concern," said the group.
"We remind the court that sexual conduct between consenting adults is not a crime and the LGBT people are not criminals. Private and consensual sexual acts between adults must not be anyone’s concern," said the group.
"We also condemn the act of tajassus or spying by the religious authorities for the purpose to persecute the five men," said the group.
The Selangor Syariah High Court yesterday sentenced four men to six months’ jail, six strokes of the cane and a RM4,800 fine for “attempting intercourse against the order of nature”, the Malay-language daily Harian Metro reported.
A fifth man was sentenced to seven months’ jail, six strokes of the cane and a RM4,900 fine for the same offence.
Islamic enforcement officers detained the five accused with seven other men during a raid on a two-storey apartment in November last year, Harian Metro reported, citing judge Mohamad Asri Mohamad Tahir.
Sodomy and same-sex acts are illegal under Islamic law in Muslim-majority Malaysia, although convictions are rare.
The group also said the judge made many prejudicial statements unrelated to the facts in issue causing victimisation of the five individuals.
"The judge’s decision should not be based on impact on society, as these impacts are entirely assumed, imagined and exaggerated," added the group.
The court’s excessive punitive measures have an impact on these men’s livelihood, job security, and responsibilities to their families, according to the group.
It also claimed the judge made a prejudicial statement by insisting to send the five to jail to isolate them from their environment.
The country's discriminatory laws should be abolished as they are unconstitutional, said the group.
These laws have violated Article 7 on living with dignity and impartial trial, Article 8 on equality before the law, and Article 9 on freedom of movement, according to the group.
It added that these laws further violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"These laws not only empower moral policing, raids and arbitrary arrest, but it also allows harmful and violent practices like caning to continue," said the group.
It also urged the state to end all discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ persons.
Other NGOs which joined the statement included All Women's Action Society, Justice for Sisters, Pelangi Campaign, Seksualiti Merdeka, Queer Lapis and KLSCAH Youth.