New Malaysian Anti-LGBT Law Proposal

On Friday, 25 June, a task force within the Malaysian government proposed modifications to the laws governing social media. The new amendments would allow Malaysian officials to pursue legal action against users who insult Islam and “promote LGBT lifestyles.” The Sharia law was proposed in response to the increase in social media posts celebrating Pride Month. Posts presenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues came under scrutiny by the Malaysian government and spurred amendments to the Sharia criminal laws. Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, the deputy minister of religious affairs stated that “certain parties uploaded statuses and graphics that insulted Islam on social media in their efforts to promote the LGBT lifestyle.”

The anti-LGBT laws were introduced in Malaysia within the 1936 Penal Code and criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” indicating sodomy and same sex relations. This code holds a penalty of up to twenty years imprisonment and whipping. Further in 1994, the Malaysian government instated a ban on any homosexual, bisexual or transgender within state-controlled media. These laws were enacted under the dual legal system present within Malaysia, which governs Muslim citizens under Islamic criminal and family laws that work alongside civil laws applicable to all citizens. Deputy Minister Marzuk stated that the new laws would allow Malaysian courts to take action against any Muslims who “insult the religion of Islam.” The specific religious laws allow Muslim citizens to be charged in special Islamic courts which tolerate torture, execution and beatings.

Anti-LGBT sentiments present within the state have led to vast human rights violations against Malaysian LGBT people. In 2019, five men were sentenced to jail, caning and fines for attempting gay sex. Many individuals and groups have been prosecuted under the Sharia law which is deeply rooted in political and daily life. Malaysian political officials have often spoken out against LGBT peoples who are deemed in contradiction of Islamic teachings. In 2019, Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Rawa stated that the presence of gay community members within the Malaysian Women’s March was a “shocking abuse of democracy” and was intended to “defend practices that are against Islamic teachings.” These sentiments are often felt throughout the two-stream government as religious and civil laws are intertwined. The proposed new laws impact the lives of 60% of Muslims within Malaysia’s population of 32 million. The laws are further intended to enforce censorship against all those “using network facilities, network services or application services” to display any LGBT information or “propaganda.”

Many scholars and international agencies are condemning the proposed amendments due to the nature of discrimination and censorship. Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish scholar stated that “[M]uslims does not have the right to oppress the beliefs and behavior of which they approve, including the LGBT community.” Akyol addresses the sentiments often entrenched within the anti-LGBT sentiments of religiously dominated states. The desire to control all aspects of society through the lens of ruling religious doctrine, often determines the outcome of LGBT issues. Akyol advocates for a mere separation of religious belief and public policy. In this way, LGBT people should be able to “live as who they are, and be honest about it” without fear and oppression.