A Malaysian city has not ruled out the possibility of introducing stricter punishments against the LGBTQ+ community.
Putrajaya, located south of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, may be considering a harsher crackdown on those that identify as LGBTQ+, according to Malaysia’s Deputy Minister.
The Deputy Minister, of the prime minister’s religious affairs department, Ahmad Marzuk Shaary has announced that the country’s current laws are not effective enough.
The existing sentence under Act 355 can lead up to three years in prison, a fine of RM5,000 (£900), and mandatory caning.
Malaysia’s Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355) is now under speculation and possible amendment for stricter conditions.
The proposed legal changes would include criminalising gender changes and the creation of online media content that could be deemed as controversial or “indecent”.
Deputy Minister Marzuk Shaary has growing concerns around that internet and online culture is not covered in the country’s existing Criminal Law regulations.
Associate Human Rights Watch LGBTQ+ rights director Neela Ghoshal addressed the troubling news surrounding Malaysia’s changing laws: “Malaysia’s state and federal statutes that criminalize LGBT people are already out of bounds with regard to international law, and the government seems to be sinking even deeper in its disregard for human rights,” she said.
Ghoshal also strongly urged for the government to reconsider their actions: “Rather than enhancing penalties for actions that harm no one, the government should repeal such penalties.”
Currently, Malaysia recognises very little of same-sex rights or relationships outside of the context of punishment.
Consensual relationships or gender non-conforming attitudes and behaviours are widely criminalised across the country.
The existing Sharia laws, which are enforced by the state’s Islamic Religious Departments and courts, are only applicable to Muslims, according to The Human Rights Watch.
Lawyers for Liberty director, Zaid Malek, spoke out about the potential enhancement of the discriminatory laws, saying the changes were a breach of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender.
Malaysia’s immediate laws are established across 13 states and federal territory which actively criminalises same-sex relationships and behaviour.
SUHAKAM, Malaysia’s national human rights institution have publicly condemned the proposal to amend Act 355.
The Human Rights Commission said that the government should “adopt a more compassionate approach by respecting human rights for all.”
SUHAKAM is concerned over the recent news reports regarding the possibility for the Govt to introduce heavier punishments on a specific group of people, particularly the LGBT through amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355). pic.twitter.com/X8InzvdZL8
— SUHAKAM (@SUHAKAM) January 20, 2021