Human Rights Watch on Friday (15 March) urged Malaysia to drop its investigation into organizers of the Women’s March last week.
The government and mainstream media condemned the march for including demands for LGBTI rights.
The country has seen a crackdown on LGBTI individuals spurred by religious fundamentalism of politicians.
Organizers of the march are facing a three-year prison sentence under the 1948 Sedition Act.
Police claim they marched without permission.
‘[We] will comply with the process despite these laws being unfairly and disproportionately being used against us,’ they said in a statement Thursday.
Asia director of HRW, Brad Adams, said the government was being ‘shockingly hypocritical’ in using the law.
Malaysia’s government had promised to repeal the law in its election manifesto last year.
‘Rather than using abusive laws against people marching for basic rights, Malaysia’s government should be addressing the critical women’s rights issues that the march highlighted’ Adams said.
LGBTI Malaysians were once again under attack this week after the Women’s March Malaysia included demands for LGBT rights on Saturday (9 March).
A member of parliament said organizers had ‘abused democratic space to defend something that is wrong by Islam’.
‘The government is firm that LGBT practices will never be accepted in this country’ he also said. ‘It is impossible for us to acknowledge something illegal’.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia. A colonial-era law punishes gay sex with up to 20 years in prison.
Shariah courts following Islamic law run parallel to the secular judiciary.
Organizers of the rally and allies urged spectators to focus on the march’s demands.
They urged people to ignore ‘the moral panic instigated by the media, and amplified by the political opportunism’.
More than 300 people gathered in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Marchers raised placards in support of LGBTI rights on Saturday. They also flew rainbow flags.
Organizers on Sunday reiterated the march’s demands:
- End all violence based on gender and sexual orientation.
- Ban all child marriages.
- Ensure our rights and freedom to make choices over our own bodies and lives.
- Ensure dignified minimum wage of RM1,800 (US$440).
- Destroy patriarchy and build genuine democracy at all levels of society.
Last week, the country’s tourism minister claimed the country had no homosexuals.
Police have raided gay clubs and arrested individuals. One conservative state caned women for attempting lesbian sex.
And, importantly, the government continues to spew anti-LGBTI rhetoric.
Malaysia’s prime minister last year said Malaysia could not accept LGBT rights and labeled them a Western import.