Malaysian health authorities have backtracked on an anti-gay video competition aimed at “preventing” homosexuality and transgenderism.
The competition, launched last week, encouraged members of the public to submit videos that warn of the “consequences” of being LGBT, and show how to “prevent, control, and seek help” for them.
But now the health ministry has promised to remove anti-gay terms from the competition’s marketing material.
They have withdrawn the “Gender Confusion” video category, for example.
The health ministry said in a statement that the competition was launched in “good faith” and that its purpose “is not to single out nor to discriminate [against] the LGBT community.”
The competition was instead intended to “shed light on the understanding of adolescents on sexual and reproductive health”, the ministry said.
“The MOH [Ministry of Health] … does not discriminate [against] any group or individual,” the statement added.
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Prominent Malaysian LGBT activist Nisha Ayub – from the Seed Foundation, a charity working with transgender Malaysians – said the change came after an “awesome” meeting with ministry officials who discussed the issue in a professional manner.
“I see the genuine interest of [Ministry of Health] in regards of working with the community,” Ayub said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
The competition was launched less than a month after a Pride march in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur was cancelled, reportedly following anger from pro-Islamist blogs that the event was scheduled during Ramadan.
Malaysian LGBT activists say incidents of homophobia and transphobia have increased in recent years in the majority Muslim Southeast Asian country.
Gay sex is illegal in Malaysia, and punishable by up to 20 years in prison, caning, or a fine.
Earlier this year Malaysian authorities blocked the release of Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast after an apparently ‘gay moment’ – when Gaston’s sidekick Lefou is seen dancing with another man toward the end of the film.
This followed a decision from the Russian government to ban anybody aged under 16 from watching the film.
In 2012, Malaysian authorities issued guidelines aimed at helping teachers and parents spot signs of homosexuality in children.
Signs of homosexuality in boys, the guidelines advised, included a preference for tight v-neck shirts and large handbags, whilst lesbian girls would probably enjoy socialising with other girls.