Malaysian court upholds gay festival ban


Judge Rohana Yusuf in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has upheld the police ban on Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual gay rights festival.

The March ruling upheld the November 2011 decision issued by Khalid Abu Bakar, deputy inspector general of the Royal Malaysia Police.

The reason for the ban, according to authorities, is the festival would cause public disorder.

The judge wrote, “The police are empowered under Section 27 of the Police Act to stop an event for investigation purposes.… The country will come to a standstill if everyone wants to call for a review of actions taken by the police.”

Last year, on behalf of festival organizers, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission wrote to Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Royal Malaysia Police Chief Ismail Omar.

Organizers had stated that the annual festival had been held peacefully since 2008 and to achieve three goals: empower Malaysians marginalized as LGBT, champion self-determination, expression and love and provide platforms for advocacy of human rights.

IGLHRC program coordinator Grace Poore said, “The judge’s decision sends a message that this ban on human rights education and artistic expression is acceptable. Although she says the ban may not be imposed again in 2012, by upholding the ban she is endorsing the police action, which clearly violates Malaysian’s rights to non-discrimination, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Festival organizer Pang Khee Teik said, “In my view, Malaysia has always been on a standstill in terms of human rights. When the police’s arbitrary powers cannot be reviewed in court, we are allowing the police to get away with abuse of power.”

Another festival organizer, S Thilaga, added that the decision was “was nothing short of discrimination where the voice of the extremists had drowned the voice of reason.”

Khalid told the press that Malaysia’s laws do not recognize any “deviationist activity that could destroy the practice of religious freedom, among others.”

Seksualiti Merdeka organizers said they plan to appeal the decision.

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