Anwar sparks FB debate on LGBT rights

Marc Lourdes

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's comments about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community's standing in a Pakatan Rakyat federal government has sparked a lively debate on Facebook.

Seksualiti Merdeka, a group dedicated to fighting for Malaysian LGBT rights, posted a chat thread between Anwar and Yahoo! readers today, during which Anwar was asked if LGBTs would not be discriminated against if Pakatan were to take Putrajaya, considering Islamist party PAS would be part of the federal government.

"We recognise the importance of family and the institution of marriage. But we should not unduly harass or discriminate others. The answer is through education and PAS accepts this view," was Anwar's answer.

Comments on Seksualiti Merdeka's Facebook page ranged from supportive to cynical.

Some people seemed to take offence to his comment regarding 'education', questioning if Anwar was referring to the boot camp for 'sissies' mooted in Terengganu for effeminate male school students.

Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik questioned how Anwar would protect the community from discrimination and harassment.

Homophobic sentiments

"It is fine to say we should not harass or discriminate, but the fact is that isn't going to stop harassment and discrimination until we put good policies in place," he said.

He added that he found the usage of the word 'unduly' to be curious.

"Does this mean that there is an acceptable limit to harassing and discriminating others after which it becomes 'unduly'? Is it okay to 'duly' harass and discriminate?" he asked.

He added that Anwar could have 'turned the tables on BN' by pointing out that it was inciting homophobic sentiments merely to sway public opinion against him (Anwar).

Pang also had a different view of Anwar's words on 'the importance of family and the institution of marriage'.

(Reuters Photos)
(Reuters Photos)

"I, too, recognise the importance of family and the institution of marriage, namely, the importance of families that accept differences and an institution of marriage that does not prevent LGBTs from full participation in society," he said.

Other reactions were more positive.

"I thought he was gracious enough to word it like he did actually. If he in any way said he supports LGBTs, he'd instantly lose PAS' support, and the conservative vote which unfortunately makes up a majority in this country. At least he pledged not to harass or discriminate," said one commentator.

'A leap'

Another commentator said Anwar's statement, while barely the minimum expected from the LBGT community, was considered 'a leap' on Anwar's part considering the sodomy charges he was currently facing and the demonisation of the LBGT community in Malaysia.

There were also those who dismissed Anwar's words as merely a ploy to get to Putrajaya.

"I think Anwar will say anything to get people to vote him into power. As to whether he will actually put his money where his mouth is, I don't know," said one commentator, while another said Anwar's comment translated to 'Vote for me and I'll close one eye to you'.

However, the most succinct response to Anwar's comments came from one 'Leroy Luar'.

"Evasive...but what more can one expect," he said.

Seksualiti Merdeka plans to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia on May 29.