Malaysia continues its religious-based crackdown against the LGBT community, now targeting the country’s oldest gay bar in a raid.
On Saturday, officers from various law enforcement agencies raided the popular Blue Boy club in the Jalan Sultan Ismail district of the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
This is said to be the first raid on the venue, which has operated without interference for around 30 years. There were approximately 100 people in the bar at the time, including tourists. It’s understood that two locals were detained and will be send for counselling.
According to BH Online, the agencies behind the raid included the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the National Anti-Drug Agency.
While initial reports said that the raid was related to drug and licensing enforcement, state homophobia was also at play.
In an official statement on the Ministry of Federal Territory’s Facebook page, the minister, Khalid Samad, commented on the raid, stating: “The government is very serious in combating this radical belief. Hopefully this initiative can mitigate the LGBT culture from spreading into our society.”
The raid follows remarks by Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who warned LGBT people to keep their identity out of the public eye and to not “glamourise” their lives.
Speaking to Malaya Mail, Wan Ismail said: “LGBTs have the right to practise whatever [it is] they do in private. Islam is the official religion [of Malaysia], whereby you have certain practices and it is there in black and white.”
Homosexuality is a social taboo in Malaysia and is punishable with penalties of up to 20 years in jail. Transgender women can be charged with “public indecency” and those who are Muslim may also fall foul of Islamic Sharia laws banning cross-dressing.
The Department of Islamic Development regularly organises camps and programmes to “educate gender-confused individuals”. According to Human Rights Watch, officials claim that 3,000 LGBT people have gone through these programmes to return them to “right path”.
“The Malaysian government should immediately cease all state-sponsored programmes aimed at ‘changing’ LGBT people, and instead support organisations that provide affirming, competent health care and other services to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities,” said Human Rights Watch’s Sagaree Jain and Neela Ghoshal.
“It should also seek to change laws that criminalise same-sex relations and transgender identities. Acceptance of LGBT people into health systems, communities, and civic life is a vital step towards a more vibrant, healthy Malaysia,” they added.