By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 ― The Education Ministry took to Facebook today to deny endorsing any guideline on spotting homosexuality symptoms among schoolchildren, following its deputy minister’s apparent support for a controversial list that has triggered widespread disapproval since surfacing earlier this week.
In a brief three-paragraph statement posted on its official page on the social network just hours ago, the ministry also denied it had organised a recent parenting seminar in Penang, attributing it instead to “concerned NGOs” over a perceived rise in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture in religiously-conservative Malaysia.
“Please be informed that the KPM has never endorsed to any party to prepare or issue those guidelines to be distributed to schools,” the ministry stated in Bahasa Malaysia on its official Facebook page today, referring to its Malay initials.
“Nonetheless, KPM also views seriously such cases of social ills in the community and is always giving direct and indirect guidance to all students to prevent them from being caught in unhealthy tendencies,” the ministry added.
In a list published by the Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily, gay men were described as having muscular bodies that they liked to show off by wearing V-neck and sleeveless clothes, a preference for tight and light-coloured clothing, an attraction to men, and a penchant for big handbags similar to those used by women.
Lesbians are said to be attracted to women, like to eat, sleep and spend time in the company of other women and have no affection for men, according to the report, which quoted the guidelines published by the Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Associations.
On Thursday, Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi, who was present at the launch of the guidelines, said few people understood or knew the early “symptoms” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to prevent its spread.
“The time has come for the LGBT issue to be discussed openly and not seen as a ‘taboo’,” Puad was quoted as saying at event by national news service Bernama.
Child health experts and equality advocates have slammed the guidelines, saying such purported endorsements from the government could lead to sexual misconceptions and discrimination and, in the worst cases, perpetrate violence against the identified groups.
International news wire Reuters reported the federal government as acknowledging in March this year that it has been working to curb the homosexuality “problem” prevalent among Muslims who form 60 per cent of the 28 million total population.
While homosexuality in itself is not a crime, it is considered taboo in the religiously-conservative community, including among followers of Islam.
Malaysia’s Penal Code also prescribes a maximum jail sentence of 20 years, whipping or a fine for those guilty of sex against the order of nature, such as oral and anal sex.
A campaign against homosexuality started last year when the annual human rights event, Seksualiti Merdeka, was banned by the Home Ministry.
The sexuality rights festival, which would have hosted forums, theatre, musical performances and movie screenings, was branded by the mainstream media as a “sex party for the LGBT community”.
In April, Jaringan Melayu Malaya (JMM) used Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan’s invitation to officiate the event as proof that she supported LGBT rights in an apparent move to discredit the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) struggle before its rally on April 28.
In July, both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim voiced their disapproval of the LGBT community.
Najib had said during an assembly of 11,000 members of mosque committees in Serdang that LGBTs were “enemies of Islam”.