The recent raids and confiscations of Swatch watches drew a lot of attention on social media, including the various mainstream news platforms.
The ministry responsible for what was perceived as a raid on the rainbow-coloured watches finally clarified that the confiscation of the specific few hundred watches was because the design included the term “LGBTQIA2S”.
A ministry official claimed its swoop on the watches had nothing to do with rainbows.
Earlier, the Swatch CEO had claimed that the company “had not included any reference to the LGBT community on the dials of this year’s Pride Collection”.
In Malaysia, LGBT+ persons are often ostracised.
The ministry justified its raids based on the outdated Printing Presses and Publications Act.
We need to reflect on, debate and rethink the context surrounding sexuality – ie the discrimination, the prejudices, the honour (or dishonour) related to all things sexual. Let’s also re-examine our belief systems and the direction we are heading.
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Let’s sit down and think through the issue of sexuality rationally, compassionately and with understanding. Laws, raids and condemnation will only hinder our progress in a rapidly changing world.
Civilisation is so dynamic that prejudices, philosophies, governing bodies and laws must evolve to remain relevant.
What does Malaysia want, if not to enable its people to embrace and thrive in a changing world?
Does it mean that if references to LGBTQIA2S – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and two-spirit – are outlawed in the country, there will be no more LGBT+ persons in our society?
Our own history has taught us that the mandatory death penalty, now abolished, failed to rid the nation of some serious crimes, including drug trafficking.
Society changes with philosophical thought as its driving force. So, we need to ask some serious questions, bearing in mind that changes to our society have always taken place and will continue to take place.
Who gives governments – policymakers and political leaders – the authority to determine the directions that some individuals or communities will choose to take?
Shouldn’t we recognise that sexuality is not an absolute but a variable?
Haven’t precepts and perceptions relating to sexuality evolved over the millenniums, in different civilisations and even different cultures?
To state that heterosexuality is the only reality is to look at history and evolution with a blinkered view.
We need objectivity if we are to recognise that many different precepts of sexual behaviour and attitudes have existed since the dawn of humanity.
Human laws – those enacted by governments and religious interpreters – cannot obliterate the different manifestations of our sexuality since prehistoric times. These will have to include the eras of the ancient Greece, Hindu mythology and ancient Chinese civilisations.
Whether we ban, deny, discriminate, vilify or banish all forms of sexuality apart from heterosexuality, the fact is humanity is continuously evolving – physically, emotionally, intellectually and philosophically.
‘Faith’ today has many other meanings, beyond the more rigid theocratic constructs of religion and God.
And so, Malaysian policymakers and those who want us to believe that they have the sole mandate to interpret and lay down the rules for society need to recognise that culture and knowledge are not absolute but are fluid and constantly evolving.
If we still believe that only heterosexuality is the sole, heavenly ordained way forward and that references to LGBT+ should be outlawed, then we need to ask some very serious questions.
Why do we allow child marriages, where grown men marry underage children?
What do we say of religions that propagate celibacy where their clergymen must refrain from all sexual relations, when we claim that human beings are sexual beings?
If sainthood and sage-hood (as we have come to know all through civilisation) can only be attained by renouncing marriages and sexual relationships, then wouldn’t it mean that Utopia on earth is only possible when sexuality is absolutely denied?
It is time we grow out of our blinkered views, consider the precepts and perspectives of our evolutionary sexuality, and see humans as travellers passing through civilisations.
But whether we can be that progressive is another story.
Author’s note: This article is not aimed at defending any form of sexuality or orientations. Rather, it aims to encourage healthy debate in society.