While Donald Trump’s busy dabbling in confefe and wholly ignoring Pride month, a sinister campaign is brewing across the ocean in Malaysia. The nation’s health ministry has launched a new competition called “Value Yourself, Practice Healthy Lifestyle” that offers almost $1,000 to young people aged 13 to 24 years old to create videos that explain how to "prevent homosexuality” and show the "consequences" of being LGBTQ, as well as how to "prevent, control and seek help" for them.
While Malaysia no stranger to anti-LGBTQ rhetoric—homosexuality is illegal, and both anal and oral sex is punishable by up to 20 years in jail—this campaign is significant given the worldwide threat to the LGBTQ community we’ve endured this year. In America, a rash of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and legislation has given rise to a new wave of bigotry. In Chechnya, a horrific gay purge has led to the torture and murder of gay men in state-sponsored concentration camps.
Despite a worldwide scorn from gay rights activists, Malaysia’s Health Ministry is not backing down. The country's director-general of health, Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, defended the competition as being held “purely to tap knowledge and creativity of adolescent to adolescent on sexual and reproductive health related matters and does not intend to create discrimination to any particular group."
Intentional or not, the competition is setting a dangerous precedent. "I was shocked. This is encouraging discrimination, hatred and even violence towards the minorities," said transgender activist Nisha Ayub. As tens of thousands of activists prepare to descend on Washington D.C. in their Sunday best for the March for Equality, it’s vital to remember that the resistance extends beyond our borders. From Malaysia and Chechnya to the streets of America, we fight for the rights of the community worldwide.