Malaysia has launched a controversial campaign that purportedly aims to “prevent” homosexuality through “informational” videos.
The initiative, a brainchild of the Ministry of Health (MoH), involves a competition encouraging participants to create videos explaining how to stop people from becoming gay.
Videos addressing gayness or “gender confusion” that offer helpful suggestions on how these could be “prevented or controlled” are accepted in the contest with the overall theme of “Value Yourself, Healthy Lifestyle Practice.”
Each entry in the government-sponsored contest is expected to focus on “prevention, control and how to get help” while highlighting “issues and consequences”. Participants are also encouraged to create videos about sex, the internet, or sexual health.
According to the Malaysian health ministry’s website, the best productions will receive between 1,000 and 4,000 ringgit ($235-$940) by the end of the contest in August.
“Each work will be judged on originality, content, concept and creativity and quality production by a panel of judges appointed by the organizers,” the website stated.
Critics, however, pointed out that the program could further spread hate and fear against members of the LGBT community in the country. Activists have particularly found the contest to be problematic and may lead to more cases of discrimination toward gay people.
“The very fact that they lump LGBT people under a category called ‘gender confusion’ shows that the authorities are very much confused themselves,” local rights activist Pang Khee Teik told AFP.
“It is mind-blowing that a government agency wants the whole country to be sucked into its confluence of confusion.”
Pang further stated that gays and lesbians in the country often find it difficult to access medical services due to a distrust of health care authorities.
“This kind of contest will only add to the confusion and distrust and fear,” he warned.
Malaysian LGBT activist Nisha Ayub accused the government of promoting hatred and discrimination against the community.
“The ministry needs to revise this and think about their actions,” said Ayub, who was recognized by the U.S. State Department last year as the first transgender woman in the list of International Women of Courage.
After being slammed for being discriminatory against the LGBT community, the MoH has released a statement defending the contest, denying that the initiative would encourage hatred and violence towards the group.
In a statement, Public Health Deputy Director-General Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the competition was aimed to enhance healthy lifestyle knowledge and practices pertaining to sexual and reproductive health among the youth.
“In the context that ‘prevention is better than cure’, this competition aims to empower adolescents to make wise decisions and choices regarding their sexual reproductive health,” he said.
His post was immediately filled with homophobic comments: