Malaysian police ban gay rights festival
By Rizwan Khatik - Thu Nov 03, 12:09 pm
Malaysian police said they will prevent an annual gay rights festival, with organisers slamming the move Thursday as proof of the repression homosexuals face in the socially conservative Muslim country.
Deputy national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the decision to ban the three-year-old “Seksualiti Merdeka” (Sexuality Freedom) festival set for November 9-13 came after Muslims called for it to be banned.
“Police will take action…to prevent any function relating to the programme,” Khalid was quoted as saying by national Bernama news agency.
He said Muslim and other groups had protested that “the programme could create disharmony, enmity and disturb public order.”
A senior police official confirmed the decision to AFP.
Festival organiser Pang Khee Pik said the announcement marked a “very tragic day for Malaysia.”
“We are aware that homophobic polices in Malaysia are not isolated, but (the police decision) is a symptom of a systemic breakdown in human rights in the country,” he told AFP.
Pang said that 1,500 people attended the event last year and organisers were expecting that number to double this year.
Homosexuality remains a largely taboo subject in Muslim-majority Malaysia and sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The police decision came after rising pressure from Muslims, with one Islamic group threatening to protest on Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also was quoted earlier Thursday by Bernama as calling the festival “immoral” and saying it should be stopped.
“Any activity that does not benefit the majority of Malaysians should not be carried out. It’s a waste of time, although they can say it’s their own right and freedom,” he said.
Pang said the move highlights the oppression faced by Malaysian homosexuals.
“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of Malaysia are tired of having our rights continually taken away from us. We are tired of being bullied, harassed, persecuted and put in jail for who we are,” Pang said.
Pang said the festival was “likely to be cancelled and we will have to re-strategise.”