The health ministry’s competition has been defended by the government as the videos are intended to promote a ‘healthy lifestyle’
In a troubling move, the Malaysian government is offering cash to citizens willing to create the best anti-LGBT propaganda.
The health ministry’s website is currently hosting a competition that will offer almost $1000 to 13 to 24-year-olds who produce visuals that explain how to “prevent, control, and get help” for what it describes as “gender confusion”.
Homosexuality is still illegal in the region and anal and oral sex is punishable by either a fine, up to 20 years of jail time or corporal punishment including whippings. The country’s poor record on LGBT rights has also been used as a political tool of late. A high profile politician named Anwar Ibrahim is currently serving a five-year sentence for a sodomy conviction he vehemently denies. He had publicly condemned “archaic” sex laws and believes the allegations have been used to remove him from politics as the Leader of the Opposition.
Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, the director-general of health in Malaysia, defended the competition which he said was intended to promote a ‘healthy lifestyle’. “This creative video competition is purely to tap knowledge and creativity of adolescents on sexual and reproductive health related matters and does not intend to create discrimination to any particular group,” he claimed.
However, a spokesperson for an online support group named LGBT Malaysia says this is just another example of the government's deplorable actions towards the community. He wished to remain anonymous for fear of persecution, expressing concern that the “Special Branch would knock down his door”.
“We're far from legitimate in the eyes of most Malaysians. It’s not shocking at all,” he explained. “This isn't the first time the government has sanctioned something as despicable as this. Previously the education ministry released "guidelines" to identify LGBTs in order for parents to presumably take "corrective action".
The official religion of the country is Islam and he believes that the religious community plays a major role in fuelling intolerance towards gay people – that and the “strong conservatism” of Asian values in the region. “I believe that creating awareness around the damage caused by homophobia is a major issue. Conversations beyond liberal, urban, middle-class spheres often brush it off as ‘yuck’ and ‘ew’ and ‘it's not normal’. The conversation does not develop beyond that, and when there is an attempt to raise such discourse Islamic groups, often supported by the government, put an end to any such hopes.”