The Malaysian Teachers Foundation is holding seminars to help teachers and parents identify gay children in order to stop “the spread of the unhealthy lifestyle”.

According to Reuters, at least ten seminars have already been held with the backing of the education ministry. The most recent event saw 1,500 people in attendance.

A spokesperson for the foundation told Reuters: “It is a multi-religious and multicultural [event], after all, all religions are basically against that type of behaviour.”

A handout distributed at the seminars lists various “signs” that a child might be gay. These include:

• Have a muscular body and like to show their body by wearing V-neck and sleeveless clothing;
• Prefer tight and light-coloured clothes;
• Attracted to men, and;
• Like to bring big handbags, similar to those used by women, when hanging out.

The signs for spotting lesbian children include:

• Attracted to women;
• Besides their female companions, they will distance themselves from other women;
• Like to hang out, have meals and sleep in the company of women, and;
• Have no affection for men.

Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi is reported to have personally run the latest seminar. National news agency Bernama quoted him as saying that knowing these signs will help limit “the spread of the unhealthy lifestyle among the young, especially students”.

He added: “Youths are easily influenced by websites and blogs relating to LGBT groups. This can also spread among their friends. We are worried that this happens during schooling time.”

Sharifuddin Abdul Latiff, president of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM), said he was “appalled” by the seminars and the guidelines.

“Even a layman can see that every single point is spurious and without merit. They merely serve to legitimise prejudice and bigotry in our society,” he said.

“The mental and emotional damage it will certainly cause to our children is incalculable. By endorsing these guidelines, the Ministry is presenting bigots in schools with more ammunition to disenfranchise and terrorise those students who do not conform.”

Gay activist Pang Khee Teik told Free Malaysia Today that the Education Ministry was “only interested in teaching hate, promoting inequality and playing politics”.

“The Ministry of Education is now officially a bully,” he said. “I never presumed to be in the position to teach the meaning of education to the people running the Ministry of Education. But it has come to that.”

Last year, human rights groups were horrified by news that male children, said to be of secondary school age or approximately ages 12 to 17, had been rounded up by their teachers and sent to a gay “cure” camp on the northeast coast of Malaysia. There have been reports of other similar “curative” camps in the country.

In April, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that more counsellors needed to be trained to curb homosexuality, which he described as a “sexual orientation disorder”. He also called for a “homosexual rehabilitation centre” be launched to stop the “rampant” spread of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is criminalised under federal law in Malaysia with punishments including fines, whippings and imprisonment of up to 20 years.

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