Malaysia: Minister says country will continue to censor LGBT content

Malaysia’s Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin has told the country’s parliament that they will continue to censor LGBT related content in films, television and social media.

The country’s censorship does not however include streaming services such as Netflix. The Deputy Minister reiterated the country’s stance against homosexuality while answering a question in the Dewan Negara, the upper-house of the parliament.

Asked if the government had plans to extend it’s censorship on to streaming platforms such as Netflix, the Minister said they were currently exempt, but parent’s should make use of the password options to stop young people accessing inappropriate content.

“Provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 does not include censorship of such content, which is spelled out under Section 3(3).

“In addition, OTT services like Netflix are not public broadcast services or private institutions in the country that fall under laws involving licensing and censorship,” Deputy Minister Abidin said during parliament’s question time on Wednesday.  Over the Top (OTT) services are online providers who are based abroad.

Over the years Malaysia has banned several prominent LGBTIQA related films including Brokeback Mountain, Dallas Buyer’s Club and The Danish Girl. Twenty minutes of footage was cut from the Freddie Mercury Bohemian Rhapsody before it was allowed to be shown.

In 2017 the country pushed for the Disney film Beauty and the Beast to be edited before being screened in the country, but it eventually screened in it’s original format.

Earlier this year Disney pulled it’s film Lightyear from distribution in Malaysia rather than cut a brief scene that showed a same-sex couple embrace.

New report from Human Rights Watch highlights government based LGBT discrimination

The Deputy Minister’s comments come as Human Rights Watch release a new report saying persistent Malaysian government-sponsored discrimination threatens the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the country.

The 71-page report, “‘I Don’t Want to Change Myself’: Anti-LGBT Conversion Practices, Discrimination, and Violence in Malaysia,” claims that government officials have fostered a hostile climate in which LGBT and gender diverse people face discrimination and punishment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Global watchdog Human Rights Watch and local organisation Justice for Sisters examined how criminal penalties, conversion practices that seek to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and anti-LGBT rhetoric from government officials all undermine LGBT people’s basic rights.

“Malaysia’s current rehabilitation and criminalization approaches to LGBT people are based neither in rights nor evidence,” said Thilaga Sulathireh, co-founder of Justice for Sisters.

“The programs, while framed as compassionate, internalize societal and structural discrimination and foment self-hatred among LGBTQ and gender diverse persons and hostility among the rest of the population.”

To compile the report researchers interviewed 73 LGBT people in Malaysia between 2018 and 2021, including people living in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Penang, Pahang, and Kedah. The also spoke with journalists, human rights practitioners, lawyers, and others.

Malaysia’s federal penal code punishes oral and anal sex with up to 20 years in prison, with mandatory whipping.

Each state and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya also have Sharia – Islamic law – codes in place that typically criminalize same-sex activity as well as gender nonconformity via laws that prohibit “a man posing as a woman.”

The country’s laws against homosexuality can be traced back to it’s time as a British colony. Similar colonial era laws are in place in neighbouring Singapore, but are not regularly enforced.

The report also highlights that religious based conversion practices were regularly reported in their interviews, and that government officials often suggest that LGBT people are responsible for various challenges the country faces.

OIP Staff

Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGED[email protected]
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 /

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 /

You can support our work by subscribing to our Patreon
or contributing to our GoFundMe campaign.