Heinous vilification, persecutio of homosexuals (July 3)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Heinous vilification, persecution of homosexuals

Nellsen | Jul 3, 08 4:15pm

Malaysia's sodomy law is not applied equally. It has been selectively
and systematically enforced to vilify and persecute homosexuals. In
Malaysia's Penal Code Section 377, the sentence for conviction of
sodomy is flogging, plus up to twenty years in prison. Victims are
flogged with a section of bamboo that is split into several strips.
When bamboo is split, it has extremely sharp edges, which slice the
skin like knives. Flogging is quite bloody and leaves permanent

In addition to Section 337, just to prevent any homosexual from
escaping conviction, Section 337A provides for a male to receive up
to two years in prison for any act of 'gross indecency with another
male person.' This vague wording allows prosecution for any kind of
erotic interaction between two males. This law is explicitly applied
only to homosexual behavior among males, but lesbians also suffer

The US State Department 2006 Country Report on Malaysia concluded
that these anti-gay laws 'exist and were enforced. Religious and
cultural taboos against homosexuality were widespread'. There is much
other evidence that shows the particularly strong and heinous
vilification, discrimination and persecution that is happening to
homosexuals in Malaysia today.

In 1998, homophobia and Malaysian politics intertwined when deputy
prime minister Anwar Ibrahim made a major break with then premier Dr
Mahathir Mahathir due to his economic policies, and pressured him to
institute democratic reforms. The prime minister responded by
charging that Anwar had sex with two men.

Anwar refused to be intimidated by what he called an untrue smear,
and led protests against the dictatorial policies of the government.
Mahathir then used the existence of the sodomy law to have his major
political rival arrested.

The two men testified at the trial that Anwar had sex with them. But
both of them later recanted their stories, and admitted that they had
been pressured by government officials and police to make the
accusation of sodomy.

Mahathir obviously believed that the charge of homosexuality would be
so damning that most people in Malaysia would withdraw their support
for Anwar and his call for democratic reforms would be discredited.
While many Malaysians supported the deputy prime minister, and joined
protests on his behalf, most of them did so only because they believe
he did not really commit homosexual acts.

In response to mounting international criticism, the government
established a National Human Rights Commission. The commission
defines human rights solely as those provided for in the Malaysian
constitution, and this does not include rights for homosexuals. There
is no challenge to Malaysia's sodomy law, which criminalises all
those who engage in same-sex relationships.

Gay people have no one to speak up for them in Malaysia. Without any
public discourse on the subject of equal rights for homosexuals,
there is little opportunity for changing the attitudes of the public
or government authorities.

Therefore, since homosexuality is considered an affront to Islam, any
news relating to gay and lesbian rights, especially including calls
for ending discrimination against homosexuals, is suppressed.

Police raiding, aided and abetted by a scandal-hungry media,
continues. For example, at 7:30pm on Nov 4 last year, police raided a
gay party in Penang, and brought along reporters who took pictures of
the gay men at this party. The police claimed there was sex going on
at this party, though all of the photos that were made as soon as the
police burst into the scene showed the men all fully clothed. P

Participants said that it was a purely social gathering, and denied
there was any sex going on. Whether there was sexual behavior or not,
what is important is that this was a private gathering of consenting
adults in a closed private business.

The extensive publicity regarding government condemnation of
homosexuality has sent the message to the police and others that
persecution of homosexuals is acceptable. All my recent research
shows that conditions for homosexuals in Malaysia are quite
precarious. Things are getting worse rather than better, and there is
no evidence of any turnaround potential for the forseeable future.

The negative attitudes, discrimination and persecution being
experienced by Malaysian gay people today is a direct result of
religious attitudes and governmental policies. Defining homosexuality
as criminal 'sodomy,' imprisonment, censorship of media discussions
of the issue, and police oppression, together constitute a pattern of
government-sponsored persecution that is impossible to deny.

With this being the case, I think it is time to organise a massive
campaign to end unjust laws (Section 377) and discriminatory policies
in those nations that persecute sexual minorities.

Please spread the word, and let's begin a campaign to produce change
for homosexuals being persecuted in the Muslim world. I remain an
optimist, and having seen such dramatic change in China, as well as
in other countries, I feel that change is possible in the Islamic
world as well.

There are some Muslim nations that are not actively persecuting
homosexuals, and they can be the model for change by the homophobic
governments. But though I am ultimately optimistic I also know it
will be a long struggle.

In the meantime we owe it to the poor people who are being
discriminated against to do everything we can to help them escape
from the oppressive conditions under which they have to live.

I am proud to have made my contribution in this area, and call upon
all other rational people who oppose discrimination to do likewise.
Lives of millions depend on this. Please do your part. Repeal Section