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.
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Budget 2015: George Osborne to axe subsidies for higher income earners in social housing
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...