LGBT gets mixed signals in new Malaysia with lesbians caning

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Dr Mujahid Rawa, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in July said Malaysians should not be discriminated against in the workplace or any other environment because of their sexual orientation.

He, however, added that members of the LGBT community should not declare their sexual preferences openly, as this will go against the laws of the country.

He said the LGBT community should be discreet.

While this is new in Malaysia, that is a Minister coopted in the PM office – and the offices of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of all – accepting the existence of the LGBT in what is known as conservative Malaysia.

However, Mujahid was quick to state the government does not recognize the LGBT community and focuses instead on helping LGBT people toward the “right path” through campaigns, seminars and camps.

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Following this statement from Mujahid, a video that went viral on social media with the usual elements of support and disapprovals among Malaysians, this week we have a Pakatan Harapan MP who created waves of discontent on the issue.

Charles Santiago, popular MP from the ruling Pakatan Haparan government drew flak when he urged the authorities to eliminate all laws that are against the LGBT in the country.

Santiago defended the LGBT community, saying the Malaysians should not invade their privacy.

The women were punished after they were seen engaging in sexual activity in a car, Santiago said, a statement which drew criticism from Malaysians who said having sexual activity in a car in a parking lot was not a private act.

More than 100 people witnessed the caning in an Islamic court in the conservative northeast state of Terengganu.

Santiago said the punishment came amid a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in Malaysia, citing as an example the case of a transgender woman who was beaten by eight men last month.

“We need to stop targeting the LGBT community. We need to stop invading their privacy. We need to stop abusing them. We need to grow up as a society and learn to embrace diversity,” he said. The new government, he added, was voted in “on the premise of inclusion” and must repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, he said.

The two Malay women were caught having sex in a car in Terengganu. The women were sentenced Aug. 12. They were also fined roughly $800.

MP Nurul Izzah, the daughter of Anwar Ibrahim commented on the lesbian caning.

Video grab of Nurul Izzah Anwar live speech

Translated in English, Nurul is saying: The execution of the sentence of whipping in public without going through the right process and understanding of people’s rights without showing mercy – it gives a bad perception of Islam. It’s wrong. And we need to do better. https://t.co/cn5rFJ9Srh

Anwar Ibrahim, the firebrand reformasi leader who’s party is the main ruling party in the Pakatan Harapan government, also criticised the caning of the two women.

He said in a statement to Astro Awani the execution of the caning in public is merciless and not accepted by Malaysians.

Anwar Ibrahim, former Prisoner of Conscience and Deputy Prime
Minister of Malaysia speaks at an Amnesty staff meeting, London 9 March 2005.

The caning was ordered under the Islamist government in the state of Terenganu. The federal government of Malaysia under the Pakatan does not have the power to restrain the state governments from proceeding with such caning, in public or otherwise.

However, the PKR president said it should be dealt with cautiously because there would be allegations that those who disagreed with the sentence of shame against sharia offenders are anti-Islamic.

“If you are negligent in giving this statement, you will be labelled as a secular and so forth.

“If this happens then there will be another shift in the Muslim community,” he was quoted as saying by Astro Awani.