Tourism minister claims homosexuality doesn’t exist in Malaysia

A public caning in neighbouring Indonesia

Despite the public caning of people for homosexuality in his country, Malaysia’s tourism minister has denied that LGBT Malaysians even exist.

Tourism Minister Datuk Mohammaddin bin Ketapi made the absurd claim on Tuesday ahead of the launch of ITB Berlin, one of world’s leading travel trade shows.

He was asked by journalists whether the country was welcoming to gay visitors, to which he replied: “I don’t think we have anything like that in our country.”

The remarks could harm the country’s efforts to attract more tourists, reported Deutche Welle. The statement also perpetuates the myth that homosexuality is a western phenomenon. Last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stated that LGBT rights represent “western” values.

He said: “At this moment, we do not accept LGBT but if they (the West) want to accept, that is their business. Don’t force it on us.”

Homosexuality is punishable with penalties of up to 20 years in jail under colonial era criminalisation. It is also an offence under state-based Sharia (Islamic moral / religious) laws.

It’s under these Sharia laws that people have been publicly caned and fined for same-sex sexuality. In September last year, two women, received six strokes in a courtroom while 100 people watched on. They were arrested in the state of Terengganu after they were caught attempting to have sex in a car.

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, has previously warned LGBT people to keep their identity out of the public eye and to not “glamourise” their lives.

The country’s 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”.

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