Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and can be punished with up to 20 years in jail, or through caning.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia, has said that his country cannot accept LGBTQ rights. He was responding to a report that called for the country to introduce better rights for its LGBTQ citizens.

“In Malaysia, there are some things we cannot accept,” Mohamed reportedly told local media. Making reference to the report, he added: “Suhakam has presented its proposals to us just now, including one on amending the Suhakam Act.

“While we agree with Suhakam [on certain things], we have to remind Suhakam that Malaysia has a different value system than the Westerners.

“For instance, we cannot accept LGBT as well as the marriage of man and man or woman and woman. The concept of family remains the same—that it [constitutes] a couple with their own children or adopted ones to be considered as family.

“But two men or two women is not considered a family.”

Speaking to Gay Star News, Phil Robertson from the Human Rights Watch said: “This is a stunningly bad announcement.

“‘While the Pakatan Harapan government pledged in their party manifesto to protect human rights, Mahathir just made it clear that LGBT persons need not apply.”

Earlier this month, two women were caned for having a same-sex relationship in the country. Following the punishment, Mohamad stated that he believed that the women shouldn’t have been punished for the relationship.

However, he added: “As this was the first case for them, they should’ve been given advice and not punished.

“The cabinet is of the opinion that the circumstances of each case should be considered and how we can, under Islam, hand out punishments that are lighter while at the same time give advice and counsel to the parties.”