Malaysia’s deputy prime minister has said that the country’s LGBTI community should be tolerated – as long their ‘practices’ are kept behind closed doors.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail also advised the LGBTI people against ‘glamourizing’ their private lives.
‘LGBTs have the right to practice whatever [it is] they do in private,’ Wan Azizah told the Malay Mail.
Laws against homosexuality
Wan Azizah also spoke about the laws prohibiting homosexuality in Malaysia, and invoked Islam as the ‘official religion’ of the country.
‘Islam is the official religion [of Malaysia], whereby you have certain practices and it is there in black and white. As a Muslim, I have my preferences as to their rights it is the same [rights] as the people who do not believe in Islam.’
‘Homosexuality, there are laws [against it],’ she said.
Wan Azizah was referencing Section 377A, a statute from the British colonial-era which criminalizes homosexuality in Malaysia.
Her husband, former opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim, has been charged and sentenced twice for sodomy under Section 377A. He has always protested his innocence and claims that his sentencing was politically motivated under the previous government.
Since the shock victory of Pakatan Harapan in the May general election, Anwar has been widely tipped to be the next prime minister once the incumbent premier, Mahathir Mohammed, leaves office.
LGBTI rights have become a hot-button issue in Malaysia in recent weeks.
The debate was brought into the spotlight after the minister for religious affairs, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, removed portraits of two LGBTI activists holding the Malaysian national flag from an art exhibition in the George Town Festival in Penang.
Since then there have been numerous high-profile verbal sparring matches between religious leaders and LGBTI rights activists in the Southeast Asian country. In response, government ministers have been given confusing or vague statements, which have left neither side appeased.
Homosexuality remains a socially and politically divisive issue in Malaysia. A 2013 Pew Research survey found that 86% of Malaysians believed that homosexuality should not be socially accepted, with only 9% believing it should.