October 5, 2020
Federal Court Declares Selangor Shariah Law Unconstitutional

Despite Malaysia’s majority Muslim population, the nation’s high court has declared laws banning gay sex unconstitutional.

In 2019, several men were charged with the crime of “intercourse against the order of nature.” Some of those charged pled guilty. The Malaysian court, similar to the US Supreme Court declared that the state of Selangor had exceeded its authority in enacting the law.

Many Malaysians declared the ruling that overturned the charges again 11 men as a step forward in their battle to protect what they say are human rights. The court’s decision was celebrated by the LBGTQ movement. However, Islamic Sharia law prohibiting gay sex was not overturned in other states with similar laws.

The case was the first high court challenge to the law, and the defendant was not identified. Numan Afifi one of Malaysia’s activists for Gay rights called ruling a “historic development”.  Afifi, stated,

It (the decision) marks monumental progress for LGBT rights in Malaysia…we have worked hard for so many years to live in dignity without fear of prosecution.

Same-sex acts are illegal in Malaysia. There are 13 states in Malaysia and all of them, as well as the federal territory, have laws enacted that criminalize same-gender sex acts. Malaysia’s federal law also declares oral and anal sex acts illegal and calls for up to 20 years in prison.

The organization ‘Human Rights Watch’ declared the decision “one small but significant step forward,” referring to the Malaysizna LGBTQ+ community. HRW also said:

In the face of pervasive anti-LGBT+ discourse, law, and policy, Malaysian activists are taking steps to whittle away at institutionalized discrimination.

Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, one of Malaysia’s deputy religious affairs ministers has called for more strict criminal penalties against those in the LGBTQ+ community who violate the law. Shaary wants to amend the Syariah Courts law known as Act 355 to grant the legal system more power to lay down harsher sentences to those in violation of same-sex conduct.

Article 121 of the Constitution of Malaysia provides two “High Courts” that are charged with co-ordinated jurisdiction, each having status: the High Court of Malaya for the states of Peninsular Malaysia and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak for the Borneo states. There is a Chief Judge that heads each of the High Courts.

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Sources: AFP/ic, Reuters, Channel News Asia, CNN, Wikipedia. Featured Image by Luu Van Cam

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