Why Anwar Ibrahim should speak up for decriminalisation

30 Jun

The charges against Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia for sodomy charges must appear to more progressive and liberal readers as a joke (and at the expense of the Malaysian government).

Anwar’s wife, Azizah Ismail, has retorted that these charges are attempts at “political murder”. The Opposition politician has also sought refuge in the Turkish embassy and accused the Malaysian government of trying to put him back into jail, based on similar charges in 1998.

There is no doubt that these allegations are likely to be a wide-spread disinformation campaign aimed at smearing the reputation of an Opposition politician. However, besides refuting the claims, Anwar has not proved himself to be any more enlightened than the Malaysian ruling elites. He could do so by merely condemning the Malaysian government for homophobia in his statement.

Sure, this is not without its possible drawbacks. However, the pros are greater than the cons.

If Anwar were to make a vocal stand for decriminalisation of sodomy in Malaysia, he is likely to win more popular support amongst the international observers and the international LGBTQ community for his liberal views. It might even open the floodgates for national debate about decriminalising consensual same sex acts within Malaysia.

On the other hand, his conservative supporters might feel alienated by his opinions. While this may appear to be an initial disadvantage, it might mark the start of an education process for these individuals who are in the first place, against homosexuality, precisely, because of their ignorance.

Currently, Anwar is choosing to refute the charges without making a stand for decriminalising homosexuality. While international observers and the LGBTQ community may sympathise with his cause, they would still believe, at the back of their minds, that he ‘silently’ agrees with the Malaysian government –  treating sodomy as a ‘sin’ or a ‘punishable crime’.

No one is asking Anwar to be the poster boy for LGBTQ rights. Nevertheless, an act of accusing the government of homophobia speaks volumes. Merely that he emphathises with the plight of the sexual minorities (if not the world, at least in Malaysia). That he believes these oppressive laws should be repealed. And that the LGBTQ community should not be discriminated or imprisoned based on their sexuality or gender orientation.

Unless, of course, Anwar believes the sodomy laws are justified.

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