Malaysia pushes for Sharia law to be tougher on LGBT+ Muslims while vying for seat on UN Human Rights Council

Emma Powys Maurice
·2-min read

Malaysia is pushing for Sharia law to be tougher against LGBT+ Muslims even as it makes a bid for a spot on the UN Human Rights Council.

On Tuesday (6 April) the Malaysian government announced plans to move forward with an amendment to the Sharia Courts Act that would allow heavier punishments to be imposed on the LGBT+ community.

The country’s strict Islamic laws already penalise any form of anal or oral sex with up to 20 years in prison and mandatory caning – but ministers want to push it further still.

Religious affairs minister Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad has strongly endorsed the amendment, initially tabled by his deputy, which would drastically increase the maximum sentencing limits Sharia Courts can impose against Sharia offences.

LGBT+ people are “violating the norms” of human behaviour, the minister declared as he defended the proposal.

“We cannot accept such practices. We just need to manage the issue with wisdom, inviting and educating them to return to the right path,” Free Malaysia Today reported him saying.

The government’s insistence on draconian anti-LGBT+ laws was slammed by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), a coalition of 14 women’s rights organisations in Malaysia.

Speaking to Malay Mail, the group reminded Malaysia’s government of its intention to join the UN’s Human Rights Council, a body that opposes everything the Sharia law amendment represents.

“It is ironic that these proposed discriminatory measures – a clear violation of human rights – coincide with the minister of foreign affairs, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein’s bid for Malaysia’s membership on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council,” they said.

“The government’s decision to move forward with a harsher sentence against Muslim LGBT+ persons would stand at odds with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

“As such, JAG requests the cabinet of ministers to prevent the proposal from being tabled at the next parliamentary session and to refrain from persecution of the LGBT+ community.”

JAG said it is also concerned that religious affairs minister Zulkifli has openly endorsed government-run conversion therapy programmes by masking it as a softer approach.

“Those that primarily target transgender women, lesbians and gays enforce prolonged and state-sanctioned violence against women,” they added, noting that this contradicts the non-discrimination protections in Malaysia’s constitution.

The powerful statement is co-signed by 10 organisations including the Women’s Aid Organisation, All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and Justice for Sisters.