Malaysia sends 66 boys to anti-gay camp

2011-04-19 13:17

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysian authorities have sent 66 Muslim schoolboys identified by teachers as effeminate to a four-day camp where they will receive counselling on masculine behaviour to discourage them from being gay, an official said on Tuesday.

Gay rights advocates decried the measure as a symptom of widespread homophobia in this Muslim-majority country where gay sex is illegal.

The boys between 13 and 17-years-old reported on Monday for what is officially being called a "self-development course" after their schoolteachers in Terengganu state identified them as students who displayed effeminate mannerisms, said Razali Daud, the state's education director.

They will undergo religious and motivational classes and physical guidance, Razali said. He declined to give further details.

The camp is meant "to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return", Razali said. "Such effeminate behaviour is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future."

It is the first such programme in Terengganu, a conservative state. Over the years, Terengganu's officials have held programmes aimed at promoting Muslim morality, such as offering free honeymoons to save the marriages of couples considering divorce.

Camp outrageous

Razali denied the boys were compelled to attend the camp, saying they were simply "invited" to do so. After it ends, their teachers and parents will monitor and continue advising them.

"It is not an overnight cure," he said. "We can't force the boys to change, but we want them to know what their choices are in life. Some effeminate boys end up as a transvestite or a homosexual, but we want to do our best to limit this."

Pang Khee Teik, the co-founder of a Malaysian sexual rights awareness group, called the camp "outrageous".

"If we don't do anything to stop the rot of homophobia ... I worry it may get worse," he said.

Gay Malaysians say they face discrimination from government policies such as a law that makes sodomy punishable by 20 years in prison. The law is seldom and selectively enforced, but some states also impose jail terms for public cross-dressing.

Last year, a young gay Malaysian who posted a Youtube clip defending his sexuality received online death threats. Government authorities accused him of insulting Islam, though no official action was taken.

Malaysia's most high-profile use of the anti-sodomy law involves opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is on trial on charges of having sex with a male former aide. Anwar, who is married with six children, insists the charge was fabricated to smear his reputation. The government denies plotting against him.

  • marcus.kittel - 2011-04-19 13:32

    Shameful that this kind of thing is tolerated in the 21st century. Countries can fight about oil but basic human rights are overlooked ...

      Irené - 2011-04-19 13:50

      So true. And the irony is, in a country like indonesia with huge muslim populatioon, they believe in 5 genders. A woman may dress and luve like a man and other way around. So archaic, so pityfully sad.

      CTScientist - 2011-04-19 17:04

      And who exactly, marcus.kittel, gets to decide what Universal human rights are? You? Me? John from the 4th floor? While I agree that the practice outlined in the article is pretty awful from *my* own perspective, I'm pretty sure that it is hardly fair to call these people archaic, Irene. To do so implies some sort of 'cultural evolution', which clearly doesn't exist.

  • Spoofed - 2011-04-19 14:23

    What an absolute load of crap! If I could take a pill that would turn me straight i would. being gay is hard and doing this will only end in sadness... wonder how the parents will feel when they find their son hung up by his neck in his bedroom with a note saying "I'm sorry for being gay" =(

  • BRONZE - 2011-04-19 15:10

    And how will they re-integrate back into society after they come back from this camp? Won't they be further stigmatised for going there in the first place? Is this not just forcing them to wear a big bold sign written "I'm gay" - even if they aren't? This is a bad idea, whichever way you look at it.

  • CTScientist - 2011-04-19 17:10

    I am really interested in how these young boys (all under 18) were identified as having "effeminate mannerisms". How do you, further to this, promote "masculine behaviour" when the world is clearly divided as to what such behaviour really is? The clear divisions inherent within gender dichotomies are hardly persuasive. Gender and sex are often theoretically pulled apart in attempts to understand the complexity of the bodily experience and even then, it is not possible to understand just how gender and/or sex is created and sustained. Broader society, just through experience, hardly operate within a world where gendered divides are universally clear.

  • Jaimo - 2011-04-19 19:00

    Well done Malasia. I hope the project is succesful and other countries will learn something.

      CTScientist - 2011-04-19 19:16

      Are you serious..?

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