The election of a new government a few months ago has seen a sharp rise in attacks and punishments on LGBT+ citizens in Malaysia. For over 60 years, the Barisan National coalition had held power but were finally removed from power by an opposition alliance. Since then, queer citizens have been given reason to fear for their wellbeing.
Two women were convicted for “attempting” to have lesbian sex in car. A judge sentenced them to be fined and publicly caned as a lesson to the public about what was acceptable. It will be the first case of women being caned for same-sex activity. Human rights activists say the sentencing has set a precedent and would lead to a rise in discrimination.
In another instance, despite being around for years, authorities raided Blue Boy, a popular gay nightclub, for the first time, arresting 20 men and ordering them to undergo conversion counselling for their illicit behaviour. A government minister announced that “hopefully this initiative can mitigate the LGBT culture from spreading into our society.”
While those were official actions, random everyday attacks on LGBT+ people are on the rise. A trans woman was beaten and had her back broken on the street while passersby refused to help.
Graham Reid, spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, stated “Malaysia’s new government should stand against discrimination and brutality and foster a culture of tolerance and equality. As part of that effort, it should seek to abolish all laws against same-sex conduct and end the cruel practice of caning once and for all.”
With further reports of a Malaysia newspaper publishing a checklist on ‘How to spot gays and lesbians’ and photographs of queer activists being removed from a public photography exhibition, it appears calls for the government to protect its LGBT+ citizens are falling on deaf ears.
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