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Authorities Seize Swatch Pride Watches in Nationwide Raids in Malaysia

Authorities Seize Swatch Pride Watches in Nationwide Raids in Malaysia


The country remains one of the most dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community.

Authorities in Malaysia last week conducted a nationwide raid of Swatch stores to confiscate 164 watches from the Swiss watchmaker’s rainbow-themed and colored Pride collection.

The raids were conducted at 11 stores by officers with the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 13 and 14, mainly at shopping malls in larger cities, and issued warnings to another five stores, according to local news site The Edge.

The Pride collection from Swatch consists of six watches for each color used in the Pride flag, with each watch featuring dual rainbow-colored loops. In a statement, Swatch said it has resumed sales of the popular collection of watches, while also protesting the raids and requesting Malaysian authorities return the seized merchandise.

“Swatch is proud of being the canvas on the wrist for all people worldwide and many artists working with us,” Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek Jr. said in a statement. “Creativity and colors paired with Swiss-made quality is what we are loved for. We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever. On the contrary, Swatch always promotes a positive message of joy in life.”

Swatch’s Pride collection includes six watches featuring the colors in the Pride flag and the theme each color represents printed on the minute hand: red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue, (harmony), and violet (spirit). Each water-resistant watch features a quartz movement and retails for about $85.

The seizures were made under the country’s Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, which human rights activists say has been used in the past to silence opposition figures and media outlets. Malaysia remains one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ countries in the world. The country is predominantly Muslim with religious laws that criminalize all forms of same-sex sexual relations for men and women and all forms of oral and anal sex for both straight and gay people. Punishments range from caning to 20 years in prison. Marriage equality is not legal, and the government recognizes only two genders and does not provide the possibility of changing one’s gender for official purposes.

The country’s anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments were on display after the announcement of two concert dates in November for the group Coldplay resulted in a public outcry from conservative voices in the country. The religious extremist political party PAS urged the government to cancel the concerts, with its leader Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi saying the events would promote the “culture of hedonism and homosexuality” in the country, according to the South China Morning News.

Another Muslim leader urged his countrymen to stand firm against what he called the “LGBT agenda” in his opposition to the concerts.

“There isn’t a need for [the LGBTQ+ community] for Muslims,” mufti Abdul Rahman Osman, the chief Islamic jurist for the conservative region of Pahang, was quoted by the SCMP. “Actually no one likes the LGBT community.”

LGBTQ+ rights group Jejaka condemned the raids and confiscation of the watches, according to the Associated Press. The organization said the move showed “a deeply unsettling level of intolerance.”

"It is more than a matter of colorful watches. It’s about respect for diversity, freedom of expression, and, most importantly, love,” Jejaka said in a statement.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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