A leading Malaysian paper, Sinar Harian wrote an article containing pointers on how to spot gay and lesbian people
Homosexuality is admittedly a sensitive topic, even in the world’s most liberal countries. Recently, more governments have given in to popular opinion and have begun incorporating LGBTQ rights into their laws and recognising the freedom to choose whatever sexual orientation as a person wishes.
However, in countries like Nigeria and Malaysia, homosexuality is seen through a moral lens.
Homosexuals in these countries are treated like a cancer with little thought spared for their rights, freedoms and liberties.
For the majority, ‘finding’ a homosexual is exotic to the point of being wrong. And for the homosexual ‘found’, the consequences can be so bad that bullying is the mildest of many available options.
The article in Sinar Harian outlined, in bullet points, qualities and features that could be used to distinguish gay and lesbian people.
It stated that gay men were easy to identify because they loved beards more than straight men.
The paper was filled with popular stereotypes about gay men, one of its bullet points was that gay men loved going to the gym — not to keep fit, but to check out other men.
The article also said attention should be paid to their expression in the presence of other men, as their eyes usually light up when they see good-looking men.
According to the paper, lesbians can be identified by the fact that they tend to hold each other, enjoy physical contact and degrade men.
That such a report would be run in Malaysia is not all too surprising.
The country’s homophobia is state-approved. Last year, the country’s deputy interior minister attacked Walt Disney for refusing to cut a gay scene in Beauty and the Beast after the Malaysian censorship board had requested it removed.
The country’s health website carries a report, entitled “Why would a person be lesbian?”. Among other things, it states that potential causes of women being gay were their decisions to prioritise their careers and believing other women were the only ones who would understand.
Under Malaysian law, homosexuality is illegal. Persons found guilty of this ‘crime’ are punished under a sodomy law that carries a 20-year sentence.
The implications of the Sinar Harian’s publication go beyond just mere homophobia, because as time has shown, such insensitive attacks, direct or indirect, on homosexuals, put their lives at risk.
On September 12, 2008, four Nigerian Newspapers published the names, addresses and photographs of the twelve members of the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Church, an LGBT-friendly church in Lagos.
As a result, some members were threatened, stoned and beaten. One woman was attacked by 11 men. No action was taken against those men.
Already, one of the country’s most followed activists, Arwind Kumar, has spoken against the publication in a video that has now been watched tens of thousands of times.
But it need not have come to that.
As much as gay rights proponents must understand the cultural barriers precluding most societies from opening their arms to their LGBTQ population, it isn’t really all that hard to understand the need to protect citizens’ right to life.
Putting these pointers in the paper in a homophobic society will endanger the lives of many of different sexual orientations who will fall victim to misdirected persons who will believe they have found insight and validation within a few bullet points.
Homosexuality goes beyond a few stereotypes and as much as everyone is entitled to their beliefs, nothing, except murder and capital crimes of a sadistic nature, can invalidate a person’s right to life.