The Human Rights Watch has criticised Anwar Ibrahim for advocating discriminatory practices against homosexuals, calling the opposition leader’s anti-gay position “shameful” and “fundamentally wrong”.
Deputy director of Human Rights Watch (Asia division), Phil Robertson, accused Anwar of playing politics with civil liberties.
“Anwar is fundamentally wrong when he maintains that it should be permissible to discriminate against homosexuals.
“While this might be a good vote-getting strategy in some parts of Malaysia, his claim shamefully runs completely contrary to the central principle of non-discrimination in international human rights law,” he said in a statement today.
The Human Rights Watch, the world’s leading independent organisation dedicated to protecting human rights, issued the state statement following a High Court hearing on Wednesday, in which Anwar gave his views about the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
In reply to a question from lawyer Firoz Hussein if Malaysia should “discriminate against homosexuals,” Anwar said: “Yes”.
“We do not give space to homosexuals,” he said.
He said that Malaysian law must be “crafted in a way we must believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman…we do not promote homosexuality”.
Anwar said this during the hearing of his suit against the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia for character defamation. Firoz is Utusan Malaysia’s counsel.
Anwar had filed the RM50 million suit in January following its front-page report that was published on Jan 15.
‘You, sir, are a liar’
The Utusan report referred to a BBC interview with Anwar and alleged that he had said that the laws on homosexuality in Malaysia were considered “archaic” and “not relevant”.
Robertson said Anwar’s views on gay rights were a sad reflection of Malaysian politics.
“The UN High Commissioner issued a comprehensive report in November 2011 that clearly identified the need to protect the rights of LGBT people and called on all UN member states to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,” he said.
Anwar’s remarks appeared to have not only upset Humans Rights Watch but also some of his core supporters, many of whom are young, urbanised and hungry for greater civil liberties.
One of them, Leroy Luar, expressed his view in an opinion piece posted in Malaysiakini on Wednesday: “A leader who makes a statement endorsing discrimination is no leader at all.”
“You, sir, who have built your cause around speaking for the downtrodden, the side-lined, the disadvantaged… [are gay rights] not a fight against discrimination?
“You, sir, are a liar. You, sir, are a disappointment. You, sir, are no different than those you vilify in your own defence. We have been betrayed,” Luar said.
While Anwar’s stance on homosexuality will upset liberal voices in his unregistered Pakatan Rakyat, it will likely please others in his coalition, such as PAS.
The Islamist party has openly called for hudud to be introduced and Anwar had said he personally supported the move and refused to rule out implementing it should he be elected prime minister.
If PAS gets its way in a future Anwar-led government, Malaysia would become a fully Islamic state and homosexuals could face the death penalty.