Transgender activists slam Malaysian ministry's contest

KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian health authorities are holding a contest on how to "prevent" homosexuality and transgenderism, drawing criticism from campaigners that it is fanning hatred and violence towards the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

Activists say intolerance of the community has spiked in recent years in Malaysia.

The Health Ministry's contest invites participants to submit video clips for categories, including one called "gender identity disorder", according to details on the ministry's website. "I was shocked. This is encouraging discrimination, hatred and even violence towards the minorities," said transgender activist Nisha Ayub from Seed Foundation, a charity that works with transgender people.

In its description of gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria, the ministry cited examples of people who are gay, lesbian, transsexual and tomboys.

The contest guidelines added that the videos must include elements showing the "consequences" of being LGBT, as well as how to "prevent, control and seek help" for them. "The Health Ministry should look into health issues, but now they are giving out prizes for people to post such videos. This is sending a very negative message to our society," Ms Nisha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A spokesman for Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said he was not aware of the contest and declined to comment. Other ministry officials could not immediately be reached.

Winners of the contest, which runs until Aug 31, will be awarded cash prizes of between RM1,000 (S$324) and RM4,000.

In Malaysia, gay sex is punishable by up to 20 years in jail, caning or a fine.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Transgender activists slam Malaysian ministry's contest'. Print Edition | Subscribe