Malaysia has banned Swatch watches celebrating the LGBTQ+ community under the guise that they may be harmful to morality and public interest.
“(Swatch products) are subject to the Prohibition Order because they are publications that harm or may harm morality, public interest, and the interest of the state by promoting, supporting, and normalising the LGBTQ+ movement which is not accepted by the general public in Malaysia,” the Home Ministry said on 10 August.
Any LGBTQ+ references on Swatch boxes, wrappers, accessories or other items will also be seized by authorities.
Anyone found to be selling or owning the banned products could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 ringgit (£3,428), Reuters reported.
Rainbow watches were seized by Malaysian authorities in May
The ban follows a raid on the country’s Swatch stores earlier this year when 164 rainbow-coloured watches were seized.
The watches came in a choice of six colours that match the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, with two rainbow loops on their straps.
Raids by Home Ministry agents occurred from 13 to 14 May across 11 Swatch outlets in major shopping centres.
The items were seized because they “bore LGBT connotations” and were worth a total of $14,000 (£11,280), the Swiss watchmaker confirmed at the time.
Swatch has since sued the Malaysian government over the seizures on the grounds that it was illegal and damaged the brand’s reputation.
Notice for the raids was approved under Malaysia’s Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 as the collection was deemed to be morally harmful.
LGBTQ+ people face growing intolerance from conservatives in the region, where same-sex relationships are punishable by caning under Islamic law and 20 years in prison for sodomy under colonial-era civil laws – though enforcement of these is rare.
Elections are due to take place in the country this week, with six states holding votes on 12 August.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government, which he has said will not recognise LGBTQ+ rights, will go up against a conservative alliance that is seeing increasing gains in popularity.