Malaysian authorities send 66 boys to anti-Gay camp
 

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posted Friday, April 22, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 16

Malaysian authorities send 66 boys to anti-Gay camp
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Authorities in the Malaysian state of Terengganu have sent 66 Muslim schoolboys to a four-day camp to discourage them from being Gay.

The boys, all between 13 and 17 years old, were singled out by their teachers for 'effeminate' behavior.

Their stay at the camp is meant 'to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return,' Terengganu Education Director Razali Daud said in an Associated Press interview. 'Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future.'

'As educators, we have to do something about it before the young ones misunderstand people and reach the point of no return,' Razali told the New Straits Times newspaper.

Razali added that Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender people exist in Malaysia, but the authorities want to limit their number.

While the camp is the first such program in Terengganu, it is in line with the conservative Muslim political agenda of the state's government.

Over the years, Terengganu's officials have initiated programs aimed at promoting Muslim morality, for example offering free honeymoons to save the marriages of couples considering divorce.

Although the anti-Gay camp is officially designated a 'self-development course,' it is illegal under Malaysian law and should be abolished, one of the country's government ministers said on April 20.

Malaysian Women's Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that singling out children based on perceived feminine mannerisms was traumatizing and harmful to their mental health.

The camp violates the country's Child Act, which protects all children without prejudice, she said.

LGBT rights activists charge that Malaysian educators are persecuting children for expressing their personalities and identities.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality said 'corrective boot camps' violate the rights of people who are perceived as different.

'It should be strongly opposed and challenged as it promotes homophobia and prejudice,' the group said in a statement.

'We should send a clear message to institutions that they have no business meddling with an individual's identity and personal preference.'

Pang Khee Teik, a prominent Malaysian sexual rights advocate and co-founder of the group Seksualiti Merdeka, described the camp as outrageous and an example of homophobia.

'All the students will learn from these camps is that they are expected to behave a certain way,' Pang said. 'And in order to avoid further ridicule, perhaps they will learn to pretend better. In the end, we are only teaching them how to be a hypocrite.'

Same-sex relations are illegal in Malaysia, and may carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, although no one has alleged that any of the 66 boys involved had been sent to camp because their sexual behavior.

Malaysia's most high-profile use of its anti-sodomy law involves political 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.



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