Halt Proposed Shariah Amendment Criminalising LGBTQ People

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04/18/2021

Malaysia is facing a serious threat to human rights and the HIV response with the announcement by a cabinet minister of the government’s plans to expand the jurisdiction of religious courts and increase penalties for LGBTQ people. IAS (International AIDS Society) strongly condemns the existing laws regarding same-sex relationships and the proposed amendment to strengthen Act 355, from 1965, which established state-level Syariah courts to enforce Islamic law. If enacted, the change would allow these courts to impart even harsher sentences for same-sex conduct than the current maximum sentence permitted under federal law: up to 30 years in prison or a fine of 100,000 Malaysian ringgit and mandatory caning. The proposal also seeks to criminalize transgender people and to designate as criminally obscene and indecent any content portraying “same sex acts”, including any non-normative gender expression. These attempts to expand the power of religious courts follow a Malaysia Federal Court ruling in February that a state law banning consensual same-sex sexual conduct was unconstitutional. The proposed amendment is contrary to Malaysia’s National Strategic Plan for Ending AIDS, which aims at achieving “zero discrimination” and “reducing stigma and discrimination and providing social protection”, with particular attention on the needs of key populations, such as men who have sex with men.

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