Malaysia is holding seminars to teach parents and teachers how to spot signs of homosexuality in children, according to a new report by Reuters. One teacher’s group has reportedly held some 15 classes already, with attendance at one event estimated at 1,500.
According to the Malaysian news site Malaysiakini (login required), the government has published guidelines encouraging parents to spot and correct behaviors deemed homosexual. “Once the children have these symptoms, immediate attention should be given,” the read. (The guidelines can also be read on Malasiakini’s Facebook page.)
The dubious and deeply homophobic pointers advise the parents of young boys to watch out for, among other things, a muscular build, the wearing of v-neck t-shirts or “tight and light-colored clothing,” or a preference for big handbags. The parents of girls are told to watch for a desire to “hang out with other women.”
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Homosexuality is a criminal offense in Malaysia, and recent months have seen a crackdown on the nation’s gay community. In March, a member of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, Baharum Mohamad, called for the establishment of homosexuality rehabilitation centers, alleging that that three out of ten Malaysian men were homosexual and that their activities were getting “rampant.” In April, authorities sent 66 “effeminate” boys aged between 13 and 17 to a reeducation camp, where they received counseling in masculine behavior. In July, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak branded the LGBT community, along with liberalism and pluralism, an “enemy of Islam.”
But not all Malaysians agree that homosexuality should be criminalized. It’s a diverse society where Muslims are the majority but Christians and Buddhists coexist with them fairly peacefully, and an increasingly vocal group is fighting on the side of inclusivity. This summer, for instance, Malaysian-born Christian pastor Ngeo Boon Lin and the Broadway musical producer Phineas Newborn III celebrated what is believed to be the country’s first gay wedding banquet, at a Chinese restaurant in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.