Homosexuality in Malaysia has recently come back into the spotlight, after Malaysia’s Tourism Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi reportedly said at an international trade fair that the country did not have any gays.
Mohamaddin was speaking on Tuesday (Mar 5) at the opening press conference of ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest travel trade fair, of which Malaysia was this year’s official partner country.
The event featured a segment on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, including an exhibition of tourism products targeted at LGBT supporters.
“Since 2010, gay and lesbian travel has been an established, successful segment of ITB Berlin,” the event’s site said. “Characterised by openness, creativity and vibrant interaction, this is one of the most diverse areas of the trade show.”
In response to questions from German media about whether Malaysia would welcome gay tourists, Mohamaddin reportedly said: “I don’t think we have anything like that in our country,” The Straits Times (ST) cited German broadcaster Deutsche Welle as saying.
A ministerial aide later clarified that the minster was only echoing the Government’s stance that LGBT individuals are not officially recognised in the country, the Malay Mail reported.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, where homosexuality is considered a moral disorder.
Nevertheless, the tourism minister’s comment was widely reported by international media, with MCA deputy president Dr Mah Hang Soon criticising Mohamaddin for turning the country into “a laughing stock”, The Star reported.
The minister clarified on Thursday (Mar 7) that he had meant to say Malaysia had no tourism campaign targeted at the LGBTQ community instead.
The minister tweeted photos of a government statement claiming that the country did not plan to hold such campaigns in the future, as translated by The Star.
— Mohamaddin Ketapi (@MKetapi) March 7, 2019
According to The Star, the statement said: “As a main tourism destination in Asia, Malaysia has never and will not do anything to stop our guests based on their sexual orientation, religion and cultural belief.”