A senator in Malaysia has urged the government to ban male actors from playing effeminate roles on TV, saying such behavior is forbidden in Islam.
'Their actions would be seen as promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) practices,' said Senator Rohani Abdullah during a debate in parliament yesterday, Bernama reports.
Abdullah noted that religious authorities have banned transgender people and transvestites from TV but not actors acting effeminate roles.
Malaysian LGBT rights activist Jerome Kugan told Gay Star News that the government has been gradually clamping down on non-conforming gender roles in the media, in front of and behind the camera.
In the 1970s and 1980s effeminate male characters were popular figures of fun in Malay cinema, 'but these characters have practically disappeared due to directives given by the National Film Board (FINAS) and the Home Ministry', said Kugan.
'You can still show effeminate or trans characters, but unless the script kills them or makes them renounce their deviant lifestyle by the end, it probably won't get clearance to be shown in local cinemas.'
Kugan said that Senator Rohani's statement is evidence of a 'worrying trend' of 'LGBT Malaysians finding less avenues to express ourselves and participate in public life'.
But Kugan said that LGBT rights supporters are also growing in numbers. 'The more conservative, homophobic and intolerant the government becomes, the more Malaysians, LGBT and otherwise, are coming out in support of the community,' he said.
Earlier this month a lawmaker in the state of Penang proposed setting up a a committee for transgender welfare, but the opposition argued against it saying it would lead to more rights for LGBT people.
Last October four transgender women lost a landmark court case that challenged the Islamic law that prohibits 'impersonating a woman' in Malaysia. They argued the law infringes on their constitutional right of non-discrimination, but the judge said cross-dressing is condemned in Islam and as the plaintiffs are Muslim the law applies to them.