Malaysian health authorities have launched a competition on how to “prevent” people from becoming gay or transgender, eliciting outrage from LGBT advocates.
The contest, announced on the health ministry’s website this week, invites people to submit videos offering ideas on how to “prevent, control, and seek help” for homosexual feelings or “gender identity disorder.” Submissions must also include information on the consequences of being gay or transgender.
The majority-Muslim country has seen a spike in violence against the LGBT community in recent years, and activists say initiatives like this one only make matters worse.
“I was shocked,” Nisha Ayub from trans advocacy group the Seed Foundation told Reuters. “This is encouraging discrimination, hatred and even violence towards the minorities.”
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Malaysia, punishable by fines, caning or up to 20 years in prison. In 2012, authorities held seminars to help teachers and parents spot “signs” of homosexuality in children and ,in February, the Malaysian government also released a video endorsing conversion therapy.
Anwar Ibrahim, a Malaysian politician and founder of the People’s Justice Party, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for sodomy after being convicted of having sex with his chauffeur.
Winners of the new competition, which runs until August 31, will be awarded cash prizes from 1,000 ringgit ($230) to 4,000 ringgit ($935).
“The health ministry should look into health issues,” Nisha added, “but now they are giving out prizes for people to post such videos. This is sending a very negative message to our society.”
According to the guidelines, signs of homosexuality in boys include a preference for tight, V-neck shirts and large handbags. “Warning signs” for girls, oddly, involve a preference for hanging out with and sleeping in the company of women. In 2011, authorities in the state of Terengganu started a camp for “effeminate” boys to show them how to become men.