The health ministry in Malaysia has defended its intention to hold a competition on the best ideas for “preventing” homosexuality and transgender identities.
Health authorities in the country came under fire yesterday after they launched the competition which asks for video submissions about preventing LGBT identities.
The “National Creative Video Competition on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health” contest invited members of the public to submit video clips which warn of the “consequences” of identifying within the LGBT realm, and how one can “prevent, control and seek help”.
Each submission would “be judged on originality, content, concept and creativity and quality production by a panel of judges appointed by the organisers,” according to the health ministry’s website.
The winner of the competition would receive up to 4,000 Malaysian Ringgit (nearly $1000 USD).
Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, the deputy director-general of health for Malaysia has since claimed that the contest was intended to “gather” views and “enhance” knowledge among young people about “healthy” lifestyle practices.
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“This creative video competition is purely to tap knowledge and creativity of adolescents on sexual and reproductive health related matters and does not intend to create discrimination to any particular group,” he said in a statement.
Lokman insisted that the topics were chosen because statistics showed a recent rise in sexual and reproductive health problems among teenagers. This included a higher rate of HIV infections.
Lokman said that despite the discriminatory contest, health services in the country aimed to be non-discriminatory in practice.
“We have specific guidelines for all health workers to treat every client equally and with due respect to an individual’s right,” he said.
Lokman added: “In fact, the Ministry of Health has gone the extra mile by providing services based on their specific health needs and collaborate closely with other agencies and NGOs.”
Nisha Ayub, a trans activist in the country, said that the contest would encourage “discrimination, hatred and even violence”.
“The ministry needs to revise this and think about their actions.”
Another activist, Pang Khee Teik, said: “The very fact that they lump LGBT people under a category called ‘gender confusion’ shows that the authorities are very much confused themselves.
“This kind of contest will only add to the confusion and distrust and fear,” Teik added.