A student group at the Universiti Sains Malaysia recently launched a contest to come up with ideas on how to make LGBTQ people heterosexual.
As part of the Back to Fitrah forum held at the school, the contest included students making posters in a bid to ‘help’ LGBTQ students who have “disorders in sexual orientation return to their natural instincts.”
A 21-year-old student at the university named Ernest Mah is only open about his sexuality with a few people.
“I have to make sure I don’t come across as too flamboyant or too gay,” he told NBC News, explaining that homosexuality is taboo in the mostly Muslim Southeast Asian nation.
However, discussing how to change a person’s sexual orientation isn’t taboo, and is increasingly becoming more common in society.
Abdul Hadi Radzi, who is one of the organisers of the Back to Fitrah campaign, said that they are “trying to educate people.”
He added: “This is our view to correct LGBT. Not to persecute. Not to condemn them.”
Discrimination against LGBTQ people is rife in Malaysia, with a newspaper in the country recently publishing a checklist on how to spot a gay person.
What’s more, oral and anal sex are illegal under the Penal Code 377, which is a piece of British colonial law. The acts are punishable with jail time.
But it was a positive change in attitudes towards LGBTQ people that triggered the Back to Fitrah campaign.
“The LGBT community is brave enough to do their programs openly,” Radzi said. “We don’t want more people to get involved with them.”
As for Ernest Mah, he chose against attending the Back to Fitrak event, saying that he didn’t want to endure the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that would come with it.
“You want to be able to truly be who you are,” he said. “I’m trying to walk on eggshells a little bit.”
Earlier this year, it was reported that Malaysia’s government are reportedly planning on launching a voluntary conversion therapy clinic later this year in their attempt to “cure” trans women.
Leading transgender advocate, Nisha Ayub, slammed the decision: “Corrective therapy violates everyone’s rights in so many ways. If transgender people feel that they cannot change themselves, they will feel like outcasts from society.”
Last year, the Malaysian government encouraged people to make videos about “preventing” homosexuality for a cash prize of $900.