The government is considering to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act to introduce stiffer punishments against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the country
Deputy Minister in Prime Minister's Department Ahmad Marzuk Shaary said the amendment to the Act, also known as Act 355, aims to set a deterrent among the LGBT community, reported New Straits Times.
The deputy minister who is responsible for Religious Affairs in the country said if convicted, the LGBT community currently faces up to three years' jail, a RM5,000 fine, and six strokes of the cane under the Act.
He said the punishments do not seem to have much effect on the community, reported Bernama.
"By doing this (amending the Act), the government hopes it would prevent them from committing more offences," said the Pengkalan Chepa Member of Parliament (MP), who is aligned with PAS.
Ahmad Marzuk added that he had instructed authorities at each state's religious departments to take stern action against the LGBT community if they were found to have breached the law
"This directive was issued to all state religious departments, but priority will be in the Klang Valley," he said.
"The religious officers were told to take action against this group until they were charged."
According to Astro Awani, the Deputy Religious Affairs Minister said people who dress immodestly, contradict local customs, and flout the Syariah laws of respective states will face the music.
Ahmad Marzuk revealed that in states such as Kelantan, activities involving the LGBT community are not alarming.
He urged members of the public who have information on the LGBT community to report the matter to the local authorities so that their activities can be stopped.
At the same time, he also hopes that there is more awareness on the issue as the religious departments have already put in place support programmes to rehabilitate the LGBT community.
Following Ahmad Marzuk's statement, Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) criticised Putrajaya for intending to stiffen penalties against the LGBT community
LFL said the Deputy Minister's statement was a mere "political ploy" to distract the public from the real issue affecting Malaysians.
"In a time when the country is in crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is disappointing that the Deputy Minister chooses to focus on the vilification of the LGBT community, which is nothing more than a tired and cheap political ploy to detract from the real issues currently affecting Malaysian citizens," said the rights group.
LFL added that the government's position on the issue will harass and invade the rights and privacy of LGBT Muslims, explaining that any heavier punishments would place the community under undue hardships.
"This would be in clear violation of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution as LGBT Muslims are entitled to equality before the law, and therefore, deserve protection from laws that target them solely due to their sexual orientation," it said.
LFL advised Putrajaya to follow in the footsteps of other Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt and Iran, where the governments have recognised LGBT rights and avoid taking a restrictive view of Islamic law.