Malaysia: Wearing a rainbow Swatch watch is now a jailable offence


In a further crackdown against the LGBTQ+ community, the government of Malaysia has taken the absurd step of now criminalising the wearing of rainbow Swatch watches to “protect” public morals.

On 10 August, the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs declared a ban on any LGBTQ+-themed Swatch watches, including boxes, wraps, accessories, or related items.

The government stated its commitment to preventing the dissemination of elements deemed harmful or potentially damaging to morality, public interests, and society.

They also claimed that these watches aimed at “normalising the LGBTQ+ movement, which is not accepted by the general public in Malaysia.”

Individuals found guilty of producing, importing, circulating, selling, offering to sell, or possessing these watches can face up to three years in jail or a fine of 20,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approximately $4,302).

The watches, featuring colours inspired by the rainbow flag, were introduced by the Swiss watchmaker to coincide with international Pride Month, symbolising the “the unity and diversity that make our society – and Swatch – so strong.”

The ban comes after the Malaysian government’s seizure of Pride-themed rainbow Swatch watches in raids on 11 shopping malls in May.

Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr denounced the raids and refuted the idea that “using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever.”

In June, the company filed a lawsuit against the government, seeking damages and the return of the watches.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, condemned the ban, telling CNN that it was “ludicrous” that wearing a watch could lead to a prison sentence.

Malaysia’s colonial-era sodomy laws penalise homosexuality with sentences of up to 20 years in jail. Additionally, state-based Sharia laws also criminalise homosexuality, often resulting in public caning for offenders.

Just last month, a concert by English band The 1975 was halted midway, and the group banned after lead singer Matty Healy kissed a bandmate on stage to protest against the country’s oppression of LGBTQ people.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend