Malaysian Gay Activists Challenge Ban on Arts Festival
BY Julie Bolcer
January 10 2012 10:45 AM ET
Gay rights activists in Malaysia took a major step Tuesday by filing a legal challenge against a police ban on an arts festival designed to fight homophobia.
The Associated Press reports on the case, which arrives as international pressure mounts on authorities in the Muslim-majority nation to abolish laws that criminalize homosexuality. This week opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted on charges of sodomizing a male former aide, which could have resulted in a 20-year prison sentence under Malaysian law.
Last year police imposed a ban on the annual Sexual Independence festival, which had been held since 2008. Muslim organizations and officials deemed the event disruptive.
“The festival’s organizers said in a statement Tuesday that the ban was unconstitutional, adding that attempts ‘to prevent us from expressing ourselves are irrefutable evidence of the discrimination’ against gays and transsexuals,’” according to the AP.
The government defended the ban and said that festival organizers want rights not recognized by the constitution. A hearing is scheduled for February 21 to determine whether the case holds enough merit to proceed.
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