|Azrul Mohd Khalib works on HIV/AIDS, sex and human rights issues. He is becoming cynical and is in danger of losing his sense of humour and mind. He also runs and is battling an addiction to the "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series. Azrul can be contacted at [email protected]|
APRIL 18 — In recent years, there has been much discussion and debate on whether Malaysia needs hate-crime legislation.
We recently heard the announcement by the de facto law minister, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, of the government deciding against introducing a race relations law.
He indicated that current laws could and would adequately regulate racial extremism and that existing criminal and preventive laws such as the Sedition Act and the Criminal Procedure Code provided sufficient coverage of offences which might occur and affect race relations.
This positive move by the government is both interesting and an important one as it rightly recognises that Malaysian society is slowly but surely moving towards a more mature state of being. The minister’s statement clearly indicated that the issue was not so much as being tolerant but one in which there is recognition and acceptance of our ethnic diversity and social plurality. Indeed, we should commend and support such a stand, particularly as it reduces the need for yet another law which attempts to regulate what is in a person’s heart and mind.
Having said that, it is important to recognise that hate crimes in Malaysia extend beyond the realms of racial and ethnic relations.
If we remember, the race relations law was first proposed in the wake of several incidences in 2010 where a couple of school principals and several civil servants, including one from — ironically — the National Civics Bureau, were found to have allegedly uttered racial slurs.
Today once again, our education system is being misused as a conduit to channel hate and prejudice towards others. A nationwide campaign to 30 schools had been planned by the Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (Malay Network of Malaysia) to campaign against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minorities. JMM, utilising its awareness module, appears to target school students to cultivate early on a feeling and disposition of hatred, fear and discrimination towards a minority deemed to be a menace to Malay society. As this is a solely Malay agenda being promoted by a group calling themselves representatives or self-anointed champions of the Malay community, I can only conclude that based on their foaming diatribes both online and in the public domain, they are of the opinion that the LGBT bunch are somehow a humongous threat to Malay society. Nobody else is making a fuss and I don’t see a multi-ethnic or multi-religious coalition on this issue either.
It’s hard to know when you are an adult who is gay or who is not (believe me, despite some claims out there, nobody’s gaydar is 100 per cent accurate), who is a lesbian (can you tell?), and who is a bisexual (everyone fails this one). The only exception here is if you identify yourself as a transsexual but even then only if you dress in women’s clothes.
Being lembut or gentle does not mean you are a transsexual or gay. I have met several transsexual men or trans man (those who are born female and identify themselves as men) in the past year and I can tell you that I failed in every instance to recognise them as originally women. Some of them have beards, bulging muscles, beer bellies and all.
So, you see, it isn’t as simple as some people might think.
So what happens when a group of students somehow find a kid who they have determined to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual? Are they going to take him or her to the back of the Kemahiran Hidup shed to “straighten” him/her out? Send the kid to the principal or the counsellor?
More likely, due to the “awareness” which is better described as hate instilled into them by the JMM campaign, the group will take it upon themselves to apply some “remedies” or “rehabilitation” by beating the stuffing out of him or her. The least that could happen would be a certain amount of ragging or verbal abuse resulting in depression. The worse case: A kid either takes his or her life or dies at the hands of “moral vigilantes” who we helped create through this JMM rubbish.
What if this kid were your son or daughter?
It is also important for us to remember that the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has deemed such actions which single out children for discrimination to be in violation of the 2001 Child Act.
Yes, what the Jaringan Melayu Malaysia has done and is planning to do in our schools with this campaign are clearly illegal under the law.
Is this campaign being endorsed and supported by the Ministry of Education? One might be justified in thinking so. Even if the event were to be organised by the Parent Teacher Association, for an outside organisation to conduct an activity within a national school, it would require permission from the principal who would need clearance from the District Education Office (Pejabat Pelajaran Daerah).
To be able to plan to conduct it in even one school much less 30 others would imply that JMM had at the very least, tacit Ministry support. Not too long ago, I was involved in conducting sexual reproductive health talks in schools until the NGOs involved were informed by the ministry that schools were forbidden to invite them without prior authorisation. So NGOs conducting sex education talks are forbidden but JMM with its hate campaign against LGBTs is able to have access to schools?
I ask the minister of Education: Why are you allowing this to occur in our schools and giving these people access to our children?
Honestly, I feel sorry for the Jaringan Melayu Malaysia lot. They are misguided, ill-informed and, despite their president’s message on their website of not being prejudiced towards anyone, clearly feel the need to discriminate and exhibit hostility towards a minority who they feel are threatening their own way of life. Maybe they too feel insecure about their own sexuality. Remember that homophobic bully in “Glee”?
Psychologists are of the opinion that those who exhibit irrational homophobic behaviour and are the biggest sexual bigots often turn out to be insecure about their own sexual identity hence the need to exhibit intense hostility and to hide behind moral certainties.
Maybe the JMM campaign is a cry for help by its members. But help and counselling whether you are a L, G, B, T or anyone for that matter becomes much harder when the environment is full of hate, intolerance and lacking compassion.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.