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Malaysian activist will fight to hold sexualities festival

Malaysian activist will fight to hold sexualities festival

Activists planned to appeal a Malaysian court decision today that refused to allow a judicial review that may un-ban the country's only sexual diversities festival.

Police banned in November the fourth annual Seksualiti Merdeka festival days before it was due to open, claiming it was a threat to religious freedom and create disharmony.

But the festival had been held peacefully since 2008 featuring events such as films, workshops, talks, and performances.

Justice Rohana Yusuf went along with government prosecutors who said police acted within their powers in a bid to prevent unrest. She also ruled that those powers cannot be challenged in court, festival organiser Pang Khee Teik told AFP.

Pang said he was ‘stunned’ by the court’s support for the official argument and planned to appeal, vowing to ‘keep fighting for equal rights’.

The festival organizers’ counsel Honey Tan lambasted the court for infringing on a citizen’s constitutional right.

Free Malaysia Today quoted him as saying, ‘Cases such as this are always taken to court after the ban is imposed. Rohana’s decision means that the police’s power cannot be reviewed in court.’

They noted the failure to review the arbitrary power will allow the police to get away with its abuse.

Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday (28 Feb) that the government should grant a court review of the legality of the ban; otherwise the status and future of the annual festival will be uncertain.

Homosexuality remains a taboo subject in Malaysia, with Muslim opposition party Dewan Pemuda Pas being the most vocal critic of it, and the festival for that matter.

Sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has just cleared his reputation, but keeps getting picked at on this issue.