Malaysian man wins landmark challenge against Muslim gay sex ban

The Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, south of Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysia’s High Court is situated. Suggested reading: In Defense of the Secular Narrative of the Holy Quran

Source: CNN and Reuters

A Malaysian man on Thursday won a landmark court challenge against an Islamic ban on sex “against the order of nature,” raising hopes for greater acceptance of gay rights in the mostly Muslim country.

The Muslim man in his 30s — whose name has been withheld by his lawyer to protect his privacy — filed the lawsuit after he was arrested in the central Selangor state in 2018 for attempting gay sex, which he denies.

Same-sex acts are illegal in Malaysia, although convictions are rare. The country, which has 13 states, has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims running alongside civil laws.

LGBT+ advocates say Islamic laws have been increasingly used to target the Southeast Asian country’s gay community, with a rise in arrests and punishments ranging from caning to jailing.

In a unanimous decision, Malaysia’s top court ruled on Thursday that the Islamic provision used in Selangor was unconstitutional and authorities had no power to enact the law.

“This is historic. This is monumental for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia,” said Numan Afifi, the founder of LGBT+ rights group Pelangi Campaign, which was not involved in the lawsuit.

Numan hoped Selangor would immediately repeal the Islamic ban, with other states following suit.

Despite the ruling, gay Malaysian men still face up to 20 years in jail under a British colonial-era law that bans gay sex, known as Section 377.

“We want to live in dignity without fear of prosecution. Of course Section 377 is still there — it’s not the end but this is a beginning,” Numan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In Malaysia, a country of 32 million where 60% of the population is Muslim, many gay people are not open about their sexuality.

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