A leading newspaper in Malaysia has published a guide on how to identify gay and lesbian people, drawing criticism from activists who say the checklist puts lives at risk.
The article, featured in the daily newspaper Sinar Harian, features bullets points highlighting qualities that are supposedly common in gay and lesbian people.
It suggests that gay men can be spotted by their beard and love of the gym – not for exercise but to admire other men. The piece also picked out branded clothing as an indicator of homosexuality.
Gay men’s eyes light up when they see handsome men, the story claimed. And Lesbians, the newspaper said, tend to hug one another, hold hands and belittle men.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and carries a sentence of up to 20 years under colonial-era sodomy laws.
Activitist and social media star Arwind Kumar lashed out at the article, arguing in a video that ‘there are much more important issues in this country which need to be addressed’.
‘If you really want to educate society then explain to them the traits of a paedophile, a molester, a murderer, a kidnapper, people who actually endanger the lives of others. How the hell does a gay person endanger your life?’
Kumar’s video, uploaded to YouTube, has been viewed by more than 100,000 people.
Kumar took the article’s writers to task, mocking the idea that facial hair was an indicator of sexual preference.
‘I know a lot of priests, I know a lot of [Islamic scholars], I know a lot of of really, really religious people who love keeping beards. Are you trying to say they are gay? That’s how stupid this is,’ he said.
The increasingly poor treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender people in Malaysia is being driven in part by the increasing influence of conservative Islam, other critics said.
The Sinar Harian article was printed in conjunction with an interview with Hanafiah Malik, a preacher who said that there was an urgent need to stop the rise of homosexuality in Malaysia.