Malaysian authorities have been urged to end camps that violate the rights of LGBT youth by attempting to “cure” them of their homosexuality or effeminate behaviour.
In a letter to the Malaysian government, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) urged it to put a stop to the practice in certain schools of forcing male students – some reported to be as young as 12 – into “curative” programs for allegedly failing to conform to stereotypical expectations of masculinity.
In a recent case addressed in the letter, sixty-six male children, said to be of secondary school age or approximately ages 12 to 17, were rounded up by their teachers and sent to a camp for “curative” purposes in Besut, Trengganu on the northeast coast of Malaysia. The order came from the Terengganu Education Department.
IGLHRC criticised statements by Razali Daud, Director of Education for Terengganu, which served to shed light on the camp’s punitive and discriminatory intent.
In comments to Malaysian press, he said, “We understand that some people end up as mak nyah (transvestite) or a homosexual, but we will do our best to limit the number.”
He also explained that the camp was meant for “character-building as part of the department’s new Patriotism Integration Programme aimed at improving students’ awareness of their duties to the nation,” and added, that those students singled out for the Besut Camp, “happen to display some feminine tendencies”.
Daud publicly urged parents and teachers to look for signs of “the slightest effeminate tendency in their male children from an early age”.
“Mr. Daud must recant these damaging statements. He is creating an environment that can lead to bullying, family rejection, and violence,” said Grace Poore, IGLHRC’s Program Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific.
“He is also advancing so-called curative therapies that have been completely discredited by medical experts and which are known to be damaging to the mental wellbeing of anyone subjected to these practices.”
The Besut Camp is not an isolated incident said IGLHRC, which noted that it has received credible reports of at least three other “curative” camps in Malaysia.