In Defence of Seksualiti Merdeka

Tired of “ultraconservatives” using terms like national security or public morality  “as a shield to continue to abuse fundamental rights as they wish”? So is Batu 5.

The nation is restless.

The ban on Sexuality Merdeka reflects the growing intolerance of differences in beloved Malaysia. It is worrisome considering the misunderstandings that the public has on what Sexuality Merdeka actually is. The police ban was greeted with ceremony and joy from the Malaysian public.

The proliferation of homosexuality has been curbed! A venereal disease prevented, by the swish of a pen decreeing a ban on activities related to the scourge which is the LGBT.

This is an article to defend the fundamental right of association of marginalized communities. The objective of Sexuality Merdeka is not to tell others to be a homosexual. It is essentially a form of engagement, a discourse if you will, to highlight the plights and tribulations that LGBTs face.

Most of us are unaware of the realities of what these isolated minorities, living within the peripheries of the majority endure. Even I am incapable of comprehending the stigma, the suffocation and the struggles that afflicts LGBT groups. Hence, Sexuality Merdeka serves to be a bridge of understanding that seeks to connect the silent majority and the disenfranchised communities.

Most of us are aware of the legal discrimination that they face (as prescribed under written law). However, the more pressing concern is the hidden discrimination that we don’t see; the social discrimination that they face. The difficulty in obtaining employment due to sexual orientation, the perception and treatment meted out by society at large just because they’re different. Born differently, perceive differently, live differently and thus treated differently.

The sanctimonious behaviour of the authorities in decrying the event as a salacious Sex Festival demonstrates their parochial view on what Sexuality Merdeka actually is all about. This view has led to a prohibition of the event. Unfortunately, this skewed characterization is bought by the public.

My colleagues, when asked on their opinion of the ban, went on a tirade on how homosexuality is a blatant contradiction to religious teachings and what religious scriptures say.

“It is unnatural”

“Mana boleh orang sejenis bersama!”

“Look at what happened to Prophet Lut’s people.”

However, that’s not the issue. By going there you don’t automatically become a homosexual. And you have the ability to not go if you wish. What’s wrong with a bunch of plays, talks and workshops which serves as a platform to inform the public of what LGBTs have to endure? You cannot pretend that these communities don’t exist and treat them as if they’re invisible.

The justification given by the authorities to ban this event screams of bigotry. It is an affront to “public morality” and against “national security” they say. The protection of public morals is treated premium over individual liberty.

I’m tired. I’m tired of ultraconservatives using the veneer of “public morality” and “national security” as a shield to continue to abuse fundamental rights as they wish.  In order to ban something, there must be a tangible harm to others, not a phantasmagorical harm that you think might occur to you!

I believe that Sexuality Merdeka does not transgress the morals of society. Morality is a subjective concept. What is immoral to a Taliban, is not immoral to a liberal. You might think drinking is immoral and it should be banned but I don’t think it’s immoral and hence think it should be legitimate. So where do we draw the line when prohibiting something?

We draw the line when an act harms another, the Harm Principle as postulated by John Stuart Mills in his essay On Liberty.  We can do whatever we want, even if it harms ourselves as long as we don’t harm others.  This view is confirmed by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr who famously stated that “my freedom to swing my hands and arms ends before it reaches your nose”.

Nothing within Sexuality Merdeka causes a tangible third party harm. Yes, it is a public event but it is done at a private venue, at the Annexe Gallery. The conservative majority has the option not to go if they wish and ignore the festivities. It is neither an imposition of morals nor an imposition of worldview to force acceptance of LGBT rights.

It is not akin to a gay pride parade which happens at the streets. Sexuality Merdeka is a non-confrontational event which invites the public to listen to their grievances. It is not a march demanding for their rights at the middle of the street causing inconveniences to others.

The symbolic gesture of a prohibition is that it de-legitimizes an idea. It sends a message that the object in contention is harmful and dangerous, as it warrants government intervention. A prohibition is generally associated with the need to protect society from the said object/activity e.g drugs, crime.

Sadly, the ban on Sexuality Merdeka indicates that society needs to be protected from a group of marginalized minorities trying to assert their fundamental right to association. From minorities whom tirelessly requests to be understood and be heard.

Essentially, this is what the ultraconservatives want. A ban reinforces the stigma on the minorities. It breaks the traction of demanding for rights that minorities are gaining by whipping up a hysteria on the silent majority to stonewall any form of engagement with discriminated minorities.

The ban is a form of intolerance to diversity. Diversity, a fundamental characteristic of a heterogeneous society. It is a form of imposition of the majority’s moral standards on the minority; essentially a tyranny of the majority. Is this where we are heading to, a country which is more concerned with appeasing utilitarian demands than upholding the constitutional rights of the minority?

I’ll keep on dreaming of the utopian compassionate society.

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Batu 5 is a student in a local university. He writes under a pseudonym for fear of persecution by university administrators. He feels the suffocating grip of the authorities.

Posted on 8 November 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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