The Malaysian government has started to hold seminars which aim to help teachers and parents spot signs of homosexuality in children, causing a rise in religious conservatism in the country.
So far, ten seminars across the country have been organised by the Teachers Foundation of Malaysia, with over 1,500 attending the courses in which participants are told the signs to look out for to spot 'gay children.' A hand-out issued at a recent seminar said that signs of homosexuality in boys may include preferences for tight, light-coloured clothes and large handbags, the local media reported. The information went on to say that girls with lesbian tendencies have no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women.
Oral and gay sex is heavily frowned upon in Malaysia, with groups describing them as against the order of nature. Under civil law, 'offenders', both male and female, can be fined or even jailed for up to 20 years.
An official organiser said of the seminars: 'It's a multi-religious and multicultural [event], after all, all religions are basically against that type of behaviour.' In March this year, the federal government announced that it is working to curb the 'problem' of homosexuality, especially among Muslims who make up over 60% of Malaysia's population of 29 million people.
Official intolerance of gay people has fast been on the rise, and last year, despite widespread criticism, the east coast state of Terengganu set up a camp for 'effeminate' boys, which 'showed them how to become men.'
Puad Zarkashi, the deputy education minister who ran the most recent seminar said: 'youths are easily influenced by websites and blogs relating to LGBT groups...this can also spread among their friends. We are worried that this happens during schooling time.'
Although actual prosecutions for being gay are rare, former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has twice been tried for sodomy. He spent six years in jail, but the courts have since cleared him on appeal, or dropped charges for lack of evidence.