Johor to pioneer rehab centre for homosexuals but on what legal basis can such persons be ‘detained’?

WHAT is it about gay relationships that get ultra-conservatives here so hot under the collar? Yes, it is haram in Islam but the way some politicians and religious figures keep highlighting it make it seem like it is the single biggest threat to Malaysian society.

The latest episode sees the Johor state administration planning to set up a rehabilitation centre for persons with divergent religious beliefs as well as those in homosexual relationships.

As reported in Utusan Malaysia which cited the state’s religious affairs committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid, the rehabilitation centre for homosexuals would be the first of its kind in the country.

“The state is in the process of injecting capital (RM400,000) to set up an office as well as dormitories for male and female residents,” he told the Johor state assembly in Kota Iskandar today, in response to a question from Abdul Aziz Talib (PN-Maharani). “The centre is expected to be fully operational in July 2024.”

While this is obviously an exercise in flexing its religious credentials, a few pertinent questions need to be raised regarding this pioneering plan.

Firstly, who determines if a person is gay or involved in same sex relationship? Will it be based on hearsay and conjecture? Or will it be like khalwat (close proximity) cases where certain number of witnesses must be present for the allegations to stick? What exactly is the criteria or yardstick?

Secondly, what is the legal basis for keeping a person at this rehabilitation centre? A person accused of being gay can most certainly deny it. Unless there is concrete proof, the person has every right to not-so-politely tell the authorities to mind their own business.

Apart from a case of habeas corpus (unlawful detention), one may think that the wrongly accused person/s could very well take up proceedings for libel and slander against the authorities for tarnishing his or her reputation.

Thirdly, will the enforcement officers from the state religious department start harassing individuals deemed not conforming to standard gender expectations? For instance, a boy is considered too effeminate or a girl too tomboyish. Are these traits signals of homosexual behaviour?

The plan above opens up a whole legal mine field and it is certainly hoped that the Johor state authorities find better ways to utilise taxpayers’ monies. – Nov 30, 2023

Main pic credit: Valiente Mott

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