Asia

Malaysia official: Constitution does not protect LGBTs

Mashitah Ibrahim, deputy minister (Photo courtesy of Free Malaysia Today)

Mashitah Ibrahim, Malaysian deputy minister (Photo courtesy of Free Malaysia Today)

A leading official in the Malaysian government told the Malaysian parliament that the country’s constitution does not protect the rights of LGBT citizens.

During the parliament’s June 19 question-and-answer session, Mashitah Ibrahim, deputy minister in the prime minister’s office, said being LGBT goes against both Islam and the constitution, which makes Islam  Malaysia’s official religion.

She said gays and lesbians should take advantage of reparation therapy, disagreeing with the general understanding of Western psychiatrists that such treatment has proven to be ineffective or harmless.

“A series of rehabilitation and treatment courses will be given to Muslims who have deviated from societal norms,” Gay Stars News reported her as saying.

Through such government programs, Mashitah said, “many have returned to the path,” Free Malaysia Today reported.

She suggested that outside influences are the reason Malaysia has gays and lesbians.

“We see that LGBT happens following what is happening in Europe,” she said. “They are being mobilized to come out, as if they have been oppressed, on the excuse that their human rights have been taken away. We are against the mobilization of this movement to spread this ideology.”

Member of parliament Ngeh Koo Ham challenged that suggestion.

“It is wrong for the government to state that it is Western problem, because this was even present in Malaysia 50-60 years ago,” he said.

Declaring that LGBT people are not protected by the constitution, Mashitah said:

Article 8 of the Federal Constitution says there must be no discrimination of citizens in terms of religion or sex. “Sex” has never been interpreted to mean sexual orientation; it has always been interpreted to mean either male or female, and they are [the only ones] protected by the constitution.

Malaysian human rights activists disputed her interpretation.

“A simplistic understanding of gender consisting of only male and female is not only a view long discarded, but is not even a reflection of the diversity of our humanity. We risk being the laughing-stock of the world if we still hold on to such an outdated concept,” said Peng Khee Teik, a co-founder of a sexualities freedom festival.

Peng said modern understandings of the complexities of gender have allowed women such as Mashitah to pursue careers in politics.

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