Wearing a rainbow Swatch watch in Malaysia could lead to three years in prison



CNN

Wearing a rainbow-themed Swatch watch in Malaysia could lead to three years in prison after the government banned the brand’s so-called “LGBTQ-related” products as being “harmful to morals”.

Anyone who wears, sells, imports or distributes the Swiss watchmaker’s rainbow-themed products (including watches, accessories and related packaging) faces a possible prison sentence as well as a criminal conviction. In such cases, the penalty is a fine of up to 20,000 ringgit ($4,375). According to a Federal Register document seen by CNN.

Homosexuality is a crime punishable by fines and up to 20 years in prison in Malaysia, a country with a Muslim majority and a rising conservative movement. attitude in recent years.

“Swatch products are prohibited as they are or may be harmful to morals, public interest or national interest by promoting, supporting or normalizing the LGBTQ movement which is not accepted by the general public in Malaysia. “The Ministry of Home Affairs announced. said in a statement Thursday.

The ban is based on the Printing and Publications Act, the ministry added.

“The Government of Malaysia is committed to ensuring public safety and peace by monitoring and regulating all forms of publication in order to curb the spread of elements, teachings and movements that are contrary to the local socio-cultural framework. I would like to reiterate that.”

The move comes after Malaysian authorities raided Swatch stores across the country in May and seized 172 watches that were part of the brand’s 2023 Pride Collection (in rainbow colors).

Authorities said at the time that the watch was seized because it “contained LGBTQ connotations.”

The raid made headlines around the world and prompted a strongly worded statement from Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr.

“We strongly protest that a watch collection that uses rainbow colors and carries a message of peace and love can be harmful to everyone,” Hayek wrote.

“On the contrary, Swatch always promotes positive messages about the joy of life. This is nothing political. I wonder how the Malaysian government could confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that appear in the skies above Malaysia.” is.”

Swatch Malaysia claims the raid was illegal and has filed an application in the High Court to challenge the government’s actions.

CNN has reached out to Swatch for comment. Lawyers for the brand said they could not comment due to ongoing legal proceedings.

Human rights groups say the LGBTQ community faces increasing intolerance in Malaysia and blame the government, at least in part.

“Malaysia’s LGBTQ community has suffered terrible abuse from the government as well as opponents who have used it as a political punching bag,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told CNN. Ta.

“In this situation, just wearing a watch can lead to jail time and abuse. It’s ridiculous (and obvious) for it to happen right before a state election,” Robertson added. .

Other activists said the ban is an example of how backwards gay rights are in the country.

“The government’s decision to ban the ownership of LGBTQ-themed Swatches is not just an overreaction, but a broader state-sanctioned move against the community,” said Dia Rezki Rohaizad, vice president of gay rights advocacy group JEJAKA. “This clearly shows discrimination.”

“Unfortunately, gay rights in Malaysia seem to be going backwards,” Deer added, referring to recent events including the government’s decision to ban British band The 1975 from entering Malaysia.

The ban was issued because of the singer. Matty Healy Criticizing the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws, I kissed my bandmate on stage The move was criticized by many Malaysian gay rights groups at the time, fearing it would embolden conservative forces and make life difficult for the LGTBQ community.

“This shows a worrying trend in which symbols of pride and solidarity with the LGBTQ community are met with harsh and disproportionate government responses,” Dear said.

“It’s an alarming paradox. As more individuals and organizations come forward in support of the LGBTQ community, the state’s pushback grows stronger. become increasingly aggressive”Dear added.

“Every human being, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, has the right to express themselves. By creating an environment of fear and hostility, the Malaysian government is harming not only the LGBTQ community, but all It is a disservice to the Malaysian people.”

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