In Malaysia, owning or selling a Pride-themed Swatch watch can get you up to three years in prison and a fine equivalent to US$4,000.
That’s under a ban announced Thursday by the country’s Home Ministry, Reuters reports. Swatch watches and its other products with Pride symbolism “are subject to the Prohibition Order because they … harm or may harm morality, public interest, and the interest of the state by promoting, supporting, and normalizing the LGBTQ+ movement, which is not accepted by the general public in Malaysia,” said a statement from the ministry.
The watches come in either rainbow colors or a single color with rainbow trim.
The order comes as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is trying to appeal to right-wing voters. He has been criticized as too liberal and insufficiently supportive of Muslim values in the Muslim-majority nation. Six of the country’s 13 states will hold local elections Saturday, and there will be a national election in November, with Anwar’s governing coalition threatened by a conservative party. However, Anwar has said his government will not recognize LGBTQ+ equality, and same-sex relationships are criminalized in Malaysia.
This is not the Malaysian government’s first conflict with Swatch. In May, Home Ministry officials seized 172 Pride-themed Swatch watches from shopping centers in Malaysia. The company, based in Switzerland, has sued over the seizure.
In another anti-LGBTQ+ action, the government cut short the Good Vibes music festival in Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital, in July, after Matty Healy, lead singer for the 1975, kissed bassist Ross MacDonald onstage and lambasted the country’s homophobic laws. LGBTQ+ Malaysians feared his act would bring backlash, however. The band has now been banned from performing in Malaysia.
The organizers of the festival are taking legal action against the band. Vendors and performers who were scheduled to also participate in the festival are also reportedly filing a lawsuit.