Seksuality Merdeka launched in 2008 as a festival celebrating sexual diversity in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. After three successful years, Datuk Seri Kahlid Abu Bakar, the deputy inspector-general of police, announced that the event would be banned, telling a press conference in November 2011 that the festival could create “uneasiness among the vast majority of the population” and “result in disharmony, enmity and threaten public order.”
Organizers have been fighting the action in Malaysia’s courts for the past two years. On Monday, they were dealt another defeat when an appeals court unanimously threw out their case.
Their claims were dismissed because police bans were not subject to review by the courts, according to a press release issued by Seksuality Merdeka’s organizers.
LGBT rights have been targeted by the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Abdul Razak in the name of defending Islam, which is the country’s official religion. An official statement from his office in 2012 said, “the government was committed to implementing the agenda of Islam in the national administration” and that “any deviant aspects such as liberalism, pluralism and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) would not have a place in the country.”
The ruling party has used LGBT people as a political target during election campaigns, transgender women are arrested by police, and the government has even sponsored a musical peddling anti-gay stereotypes in the country’s schools.
Seksuality Merdeka’s organizers struck a defiant tone in the release following the ruling:
By organizing our events, we have managed to reach out and sensitize members of the community regarding issues that greatly affect us, such as employment, persecution by the state, violence and acceptance. We have changed the hearts and minds of many, and lent support and courage to people to live their lives freely with dignity.
Seksualiti Merdeka believes that equality is for all, and no one should be persecuted and violated on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, class, ethnicity, religion, disability or other identity markers. We will continue to exercise our rights and promote justice and equality for all.
J. Lester Feder is a BuzzFeed contributor and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.