Anyone caught having a ‘Pride’ Swatch timepiece could face three years in jail and a fine of up to RM20,000.
The Ministry of Home Affairs gazetted an order yesterday (10 August), prohibiting publications related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and + (plus) (LGBTQ+) on Swatch brand watches, including any collection of boxes, wrappers, and accessories for the watch.
The statement indicates that the prohibition order through Government Gazette P.U.(A) 236 will come into effect immediately, with authorities expressing concerns that the products “may be harmful to morality as well as public and national interest.”
Individuals in possession of these timepieces may find themselves facing legal consequences, which could include imprisonment for up to three years, a financial penalty of up to RM20,000 (US$4,375), or both.
The statement clarifies that the ban aligns with the regulations outlined in Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Amended 2012).
This provision stipulates the prohibition of printing, importing, reproducing, publishing, selling, producing, circulating, distributing, or possessing such materials within Malaysia.
Earlier in May, the ministry reportedly confiscated 172 rainbow-coloured watches from 11 Swatch brand watch boutiques in several states, including in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, for timepieces bearing what it called “LGBTQ elements”.
The confiscated items were part of Swatch’s Pride collection, which stood out by featuring six colours, deviating from the traditional seven-colour rainbow. The six-colour pride flag is recognised as a symbol of the LGBTQ community globally.
According to the summons notice, the seizure was based on the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, which critics have condemned as draconian.
The ministry states that the ban is necessary, as the products may harm morality and Malaysia’s interests by “promoting, supporting, and normalising the LGBTQ movement that is not accepted by the general public”.
In a lawsuit filed on 24 June, Swatch said it was seeking compensation, including in the form of aggravated and exemplary damages, and the return of 172 watches worth RM64,795, as reported by the Malay Mail.
However, Swatch argues that the watches “do not promote any sexual activity but are merely a fun and joyous expression of peace and love”.
The Home Ministry expresses its commitment to upholding public safety and maintaining order by closely monitoring and regulating publications.
This effort aims to address elements, beliefs, and movements that may occasionally clash with our local socio-cultural norms, in accordance with the provisions outlined in the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 (Amended 2012).
“The Malaysian government is committed to preventing the spread of elements that are harmful or may be harmful to morality, public interest, and the country among the community,” says the KDN.
The imposition of the ban coincides with heightened attention to LGBTQ rights in Malaysia, triggered by a recent incident where the government halted a music festival in the capital Kuala Lumpur last month.
This action is taken after the frontman of the British pop rock band The 1975, Matty Healy, kissed a male bandmate onstage and voiced criticism of the country’s policies regarding anti-LGBTQ issues.
These developments occur in a politically and socially complex timeline, as Malaysia grapples with balancing diverse perspectives on LGBTQ rights in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society.
In the broader context, Malaysia criminalises same-sex relationships, imposing penalties that range from caning under Islamic laws to 20 years in prison for sodomy, based on colonial-era civil laws.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government faces its first significant test of public support on Saturday, as six states hold elections.
The upcoming elections in six Malaysian states on Saturday will serve as a barometer of public sentiment for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government, which faces a powerful opposition consisting of Malay-Muslim political parties.
Critics from the opposition accuse Anwar of not sufficiently safeguarding Malaysia’s Islamic values, while Anwar himself has made it clear that his government will not support LGBTQ rights.
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