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A watch seizure and a criminal code designed to stifle LGBTQ rights – Diplomat

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When is a watch not just a device worn on the wrist, designed to tell time? Apparently that’s when it holds an “LGBT meaning,” according to Malaysian authorities, who raided 11 outlets of Swiss watchmaker Swatch in the country and seized more than 160 watches worth nearly $14,000, allegedly because they featured LGBTQ imagery. and painted the lettering.

according to AFPA ministry official, who did not wish to be named, defended the seizure, pointing out that the clocks bore the letters “LGBT” and featured six colors instead of seven in a “normal” rainbow.

The uproar occurred, presumably, because same-sex sexual activity is still illegal in Malaysia under Section 377 of the country’s Criminal Code – an archaic piece of law that dates from the British colonial period. Section 377 criminalises acts of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency”, with a maximum punishment of 20 years’ imprisonment and a felony fine.

Yet, despite its brazen and misguided intentions, at least the Malaysian watch seizure was transparent in its intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

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Across the pond, in neighboring Indonesia, the growing intolerance around LGBTQ issues is often wrapped in a veil of plausible deniability, at least from a legal perspective.

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Take, for example, the country’s new draft Criminal Code, which is to be phased in over the next three years to replace the previous code – another dusty relic of the colonial period, this time Dutch, which dates from 1918.

When the new code was first passed back in December, it was basically a cause for celebration, or at least slight relief, when it was revealed that plans to include a new ban on same-sex relationships had been shelved. was cancelled. In drafting sessions in parliament over the years, Islamic groups had fought for legislation restricting same-sex relationships.

In 2016, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rejected a case calling for the criminalization of same-sex relationships, leading to renewed calls for its inclusion under the legal umbrella of the new Criminal Code. Then in September 2019, street protests across the country delayed the drafting of the new code as the public expressed disapproval of several articles threatening to curtail personal liberties.

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Although the outright criminalization of same-sex relationships failed to gain traction in parliament, look a little more closely and it is clear that despite the best efforts of civil society groups, several articles of the new Criminal Code still affect LGBTQ Indonesians. can do. And public sentiment to avoid it.

The new code contains a number of laws that set out to protect people’s private lives, including articles that make premarital sex and cohabitation illegal if the person is reported to the police by a parent, husband or child. Is. This means that the above family members can report someone to the police if they suspect that they are having sex or living together without being married. Under the new code, sex before marriage and adultery (which was already a crime under the current code) would attract up to one year in prison and a fine, while cohabitation would attract a possible six months in prison and a fine .

The obvious problem with such legislation for the LGBT community is that while same-sex marriage is still illegal in Indonesia, there is no clear political will or significant public pressure to change this anytime soon. This means that once the new law takes effect, same-sex couples will have no choice but to either cohabit illegally and hope no one reports them, or live forever apart from their partner and have sexual relations. will not attend.

one in withering report Following the Criminal Code’s unveiling in December, Human Rights Watch said:

While offenses of sex or cohabitation outside marriage can be prosecuted only on the complaint of the husband, wife, parents or children of the accused, this will adversely affect women and LGBT people, who have been convicted by their husbands for adultery or fornication. more likely to be reported. By families for relationships they disapprove of.

As such, it appears that the law will have the desired effect of criminalizing the LGBTQ community, without criminalizing openly gay relationships – something that might tarnish Indonesia’s image as the world’s largest democracy and a positive example of secularism. Do it Nation that practices a moderate form of Islam (87 percent of Indonesia’s population is Muslim).

While it may not be as superficial as a raid on a chain of watch shops, and while lawmakers have shied away from actual criminalization, Indonesia has shown it is more committed to LGBTQ rights than its closest neighbor across the pond. is not tolerant.