A Malaysian politician and a media watchdog have spoken up for the LGBTI community.
‘Focus on the rally demands; stop the demonising of the LGBT’ member of parliament Charles Santiago wrote on Twitter on Monday (11 March).
Santiago is a rare defender of LGBTI individuals in the Muslim-majority country where gay sex is illegal.
The country has seen a crackdown on LGBTI individuals spurred by religious fundamentalism of politicians.
‘The Pakatan Harapan government has a duty to protect and promote the interest of women from the LGBT community’ Santiago said.
He also said government leaders ‘have opted to single out the participation of the LGBT community as a way of carelessly dismissing the march as trivial.’
A party secretary for the Democratic Alliance Party also took to Facebook to defend LGBTI Malaysians.
‘Democratic space is for every Malaysian, regardless of sexual orientation and gender’ Nalina Nair wrote.
The Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia, meanwhile, called out to local papers for demonizing LGBT people.
They called out two dailies for using words such as ‘pollute’ and ’infect’ in headlines.
Earlier, Malaysian politician Mujahid Yusof Raw said marchers ‘abused democratic space to defend something that is wrong by Islam’ by including a demand for LGBTI rights in their march.
‘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’.
What’s more, a viral twitter post blamed LGBT people for causing storms over the weekend.
keadaan kat putrajaya semalam ribut kuat tiba tiba & korang masih lagi mencabar tuhan? buat perhimpunan LGBT secara public, hebatnya pic.twitter.com/iEE82qUZcV
— q (@sjnnhw) March 10, 2019
Organizers of the rally and allies on Sunday 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 on Saturday.
Marchers raised placards in support of LGBTI rights on Saturday. They also flew rainbow flags.
There were chants of ‘leave LGBTI alone’ and ‘long live LGBT’, according to Malaysia Kini.
So, #womensmarchMY was so fun, empowering and you just feel so safe marching amongst others who fight for the same cause, to have equal rights and fight against all the odds and discrimination! Missing everyone, already 🙁 pic.twitter.com/XHhBRR4tnD
— QueerMY: Gay Bird 🏳️🌈🐦 (@QueerMalaysia) March 10, 2019
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.