Malaysia offers up to $1,000 for best ‘gay prevention’ video
The Malaysian government is offering cash prizes of up to $1,000 for the best videos explaining how to "prevent" homosexuality, according to a competition launched on the health ministry's website.
Activists on Saturday said the move will further spread fear among Malaysia's LGBT community, as conservative attitudes chip away at the Muslim-majority nation's one-time reputation for moderation and tolerance.
Contestants are invited to submit a video clip addressing various categories including gayness or "gender confusion", and offering suggestions as to how these could be "prevented or controlled".
Winners will receive between 1,000 and 4,000 ringgit ($235-$940) after the competition closes at the end of August, the ministry's website said.
The short video clips need to focus on "prevention, control and how to get help" as well as "issues and consequences".
The guidelines described the overall theme of the video contest as: "Value Yourself, Healthy Lifestyle Practice."
"Each work will be judged on originality, content, concept and creativity and quality production by a panel of judges appointed by the organizers," according to the health ministry's website.
"The very fact that they lump LGBT people under a category called 'gender confusion' shows that the authorities are very much confused themselves," Pang Khee Teik, a well-known local activist, told AFP.
"It is mind-blowing that a government agency wants the whole country to be sucked into its confluence of confusion."
Participants in the competition can also make videos about sex and the internet, or sexual health.
Malaysia's Deputy Director-General of Health Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said in a statement the contest was "never intended to discriminate any specific group" and that it was "purely to tap knowledge and creativity of adolescents on sexual and reproductive health related matters."
- 'Confusion, distrust & fear' -
Homosexuality is forbidden in Malaysia, where laws criminalising sodomy can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment and fines.
Pang said LGBT people have difficulty accessing good medical services in Malaysia due to a distrust of health care authorities.
"This kind of contest will only add to the confusion and distrust and fear," he warned.
However, Lokman said there were guidelines for health workers to treat all patients equally.
"In fact, the Ministry of Health has gone the extra mile by providing services based on their specific health needs and collaborate closely with other agencies and NGOs," he said.
Nisha Ayub, Malaysia's most prominent LGBT activist, condemned the contest and said health authorities were initiating hatred and discrimination against the community in Malaysia.
"The ministry needs to revise this and think about their actions," added Nisha, who last year became the first transgender woman to be named in the list of International Women of Courage by the US State Department.
Malaysia hit the headlines in March over its attitudes to homosexuality, when the country's film censorship board demanded cuts to Disney's hit movie "Beauty and the Beast" because of a "gay moment".
But the entertainment giant refused to remove the scene and said it would release the film in full.