PETALING JAYA, June 15 — The level of acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the country is still low.
Malaysian AIDS Council president Bakhtiar Talhah, in describing the situation as a “time bomb”, said this can be attributed to people of influence in society, who condoned hatred against the community.
“They say that being gay is immoral or bad,” he said when commenting on the level of phobia for the community in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
“It can come to a point where a man is denied treatment just because he is gay.”
He said areas such as access to healthcare could be compromised as the community would be reluctant to seek help.
He pointed out instances of distribution of anti-LGBT pamphlets and also courses on how to “cure” transgenders by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
“They should be informing transgenders that they have a place in society and not try to ‘convert’ them,” he said.
On hate comments that have been posted online by Malaysians in the wake of Sunday’s killings, Bakhtiar said it was worrying that regular Malaysians found it acceptable to make death threats against LGBTs.
“Is this because public policy condones the dehumanisation and criminalisation of LGBTs in Malaysia?” he said.
Another HIV activist, Andrew Tan, said the fact remained that stigma and discrimination exists based on many factors, including race, religion, sexuality or people living with HIV/AIDS.
“People take things to the extreme rather than practice tolerance and acceptance in their views or action,” he said.
“They just want to wipe those different from them off the face of the earth.”
Tan said if allowed to fester, such behaviour would extend into other areas.
“They will just go to the next step like into politics. It will be a downward cascade into hatred,” he said.
He said homophobia happened when people just refuse to understand issues revolving the LGBT community and think they are entitled to hurt someone.
Tan said the transgender community was more targeted as they were more visible in terms of appearance and mannerism.
“Whatever it is, a hate crime is still a hate crime regardless of where it happened,” he added.