Outrage as Malaysia sends 'effeminate' boys to anti-gay camp

The Malaysian authorities are at the centre of an increasingly heated row after it emerged that 66 Muslim boys identified by teachers as "effeminate" had been dispatched to a special camp to discourage them from becoming gay.

In an incident that highlights the difficulties faced by gay people in a country where homosexuality is officially illegal and homophobia widespread, educators in the conservative eastern state of Terengganu sent the children aged 13-17 for counselling on so-called masculine behaviour and self-development. They also received religious guidance and physical education sessions.

"[The camp] is to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return," Razali Daud, the state's director of education, told the Associated Press. "Such effeminate behaviour is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future."

It is the first time Terengganu officials have organised such a camp, but they have previously arranged programmes to promote Muslim morality and have offered free honeymoons for couples set to get divorced – with the hope of rekindling romance.

Mr Razali said the camps were voluntary and no boys were forced to attend. At the end of the four-day camp, teachers and parents will monitor and continue advising them, he said

"It is not an overnight cure," he said. "We can't force the boys to change, but we want them to know what their choices are in life. Some effeminate boys end up as a transvestite or a homosexual, but we want to do our best to limit this."

Malaysia's Women's Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil told local media the programme broke the law and should be banned. "It is in clear violation of the Child Act," she said. "The experience of being singled out on the basis of perceived characteristics is an extremely traumatising experience, particularly for adolescent teens."

Gay rights activists say the incident highlights the challenge they face as they struggle for equality. Pang Khee Teik, the co-founder of a Malaysian sexual rights awareness group, said the camp was outrageous. "If we don't do anything to stop the rot of homophobia, I worry it may get worse," he said.

Gay Malaysians say they face discrimination from policies such as a law that makes gay sex punishable by 20 years in prison. While the so-called anti-sodomy law is not commonly enforced, it has been selectively used.

The most high-profile such case relates to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is on trial on charges of having sex with a male former aide. Mr Anwar, who is married with six children, insists the charge was fabricated to smear his reputation. The government denies this.

It is the second time he has been so accused. He was charged in 1999 and sentenced to nine years in jail, then freed on appeal in 2004. In the latest twist, he is accused of appearing in a video of a man having sex with a woman. He says it is an attempt to frame him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
News
Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine
people
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Arts and Entertainment
film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living