KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s health ministry has amended a sex education video competition for teenagers, dropping guidelines for a section on how to “prevent” homosexuality and transgenderism, officials said on Wednesday.
The move follows criticism by activists who said it could fan hatred and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The contest had originally required participants to submit video clips for one of three categories: sexual and reproductive health, cybersex and “gender identity disorder”.
Its guidelines added that the videos must include elements showing the “consequences” of being LGBT, as well as how to “prevent, control and ways to seek help” for them.
Malaysian deputy director-general of health Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said in a statement that the offending category had been replaced with “gender and sexuality”.
The decision was made following a meeting between ministry officials with the Malaysian AIDS Council, experts, and representatives of “key population groups”, Lokman said.
“This meeting successfully cleared the misunderstandings and collectively improvements were made to the competition guideline,” he said.
Lokman had earlier defended the contest categories, saying the topics were chosen as statistics showed an increase in sexual and reproductive health problems among teens, including higher rates of sexual activity and a rise in HIV transmission.
On Wednesday, he said the purpose of the contest was “not to single out or to discriminate” against the LGBT community, but to explore views among teens and identify gaps in health services.
Transgender activist Nisha Ayub, who had raised concerns over the video contest, welcomed the ministry’s rethink.
“We have to create a safe space for discussions and raise awareness. I hope this kind of engagement with officials will continue at other government agencies,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Activists say intolerance of LGBT people has spiked in recent years in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic Southeast Asian country that is majority Muslim.
In March, the Walt Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” was briefly barred from screening in Malaysia, after the company refused to remove “a gay moment” from the film at the request of Malaysian authorities.
Reporting by Beh Lih Yi and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore