The federal penal code of Malaysia criminalises all consensual same-sex relationships. Those found guilty face up to 20 years in prison and mandatory whipping.
Last Updated: 06.54 AM, Aug 14, 2022
The Malaysian Government has confirmed that the LGBT elements in the Marvel film, Thor: Love and Thunder prevented it from being released in local theatres. Further, Lightyear has been banned in at least 16 Muslim-majority countries. Zahidi Zainul Abidin, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister, said, "There was a film that did not pass censorship, and that was the new Thor film. It touched on LGBT but we see right now there are many films with LGBTQIA+ elements that slip past the censorship.”
According to Zahidi, the Government and the religious department (correctly known as the Islamic Affairs Department) are dedicated to limiting the spread of LGBT culture in the country. He blamed the problem on foreign elements, claimed that LGBTQIA+ films were becoming more subtle in their methods, and urged public vigilance. "I am frustrated because it was the outside world that promoted LGBT," he said in response to a question in Parliament.
Zahidi said the Government was constantly monitoring films and social media platforms for LGBT content and "would take severe action against individuals found promoting such elements." However, the minister revealed that, aside from movie theatres and broadcast television, his powers are limited and do not include streaming services based outside the country, such as TikTok or Netflix. "We cannot control overseas platforms that are easily accessible online—but we have no problems with domestic activities. We've always been firm and dedicated," added. This appears to free Disney to air the films on the Malaysian version of Disney+ Hotstar, and it has been reported that Lightyear is already available with an 18+ rating on the platform.
Malaysia's commitment to censoring LGBTQIA+ content puts the country at odds with Hollywood studios and American producers. Many of these are moving in the opposite direction, increasing their efforts to represent societal diversity—sexual preferences, gender orientation, linguistic differences, and disabilities—both on and behind the camera. Zahidi advised Malaysians to exercise restraint and for parents to use the age-control systems built into streaming platforms to limit their children's access to LGBT content.
Malaysia has laws that encourage racial and religious tolerance among the country's three major ethnic groups. However, homosexuality, whether male or female, is not tolerated in the Muslim-majority country. The federal penal code of Malaysia criminalises all consensual same-sex relationships. Those found guilty face up to 20 years in prison and mandatory whipping.
"Neither rights nor evidence underpins Malaysia's current rehabilitation and criminalization approaches to LGBT people," said Thilaga Sulathireh, co-founder of Justice for Sisters. "While framed as compassionate, the programmes internalise societal and structural discrimination and foster self-hatred among LGBTQ and gender diverse people, as well as hostility among the general population."
Malaysia has previously intervened to prevent the screening of films such as Rocketman and the publication of a book titled, Gay Is OK! A Christian Perspective.