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Friday, June 2, 2017

Health Ministry, primum non nocere (first do no harm)



“Islam has not once admitted that gay and lesbian are human nature, but it is the Satan’s activity to deceive and mislead humans.”
- Mohd Farid Ravi Abdullah, Kolej Universiti Islam Selangor (Kuis) lecturer
COMMENT | Apparently, the Health Ministry has come up with the brilliant idea to encourage young people to make short videos about sex. Wait a minute that did not come out right.
The ministry is offering money to young people to make videos about cyber-sex, sexual reproduction and gender dysphoria. Hold on, that still does not sound right. What I mean to say is, the Health Ministry is encouraging young people to understand the “issue and its consequences” of one of these three topics by making short videos.
Should not the Health Ministry be concerned that by asking young people to explore these topics would result in them being influenced by these types of behaviour? After all, we are constantly reminded that some people are easily confused on a whole range of issues.
What would happen if a young Malaysian couple in their teens made a safe sex video - no nudity - just an honest look at how a young couple decide to have sex and the issues involved with procuring protection. Let us look at the Health Ministry guidelines if this is an acceptable entry.
The guidelines state that videos must show how to "prevent, control, seek help and solve the issue". So does my hypothetical video satisfy this criteria? Let us break it down.
Prevent - By discussing the need for protection, the couple are preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They are also showing a high level of maturity, which prevents them from engaging in risky behaviour.
Control - The young couple are in control of their emotions and the situation by negotiating what is safe behaviour and taking responsibility for their actions, which is what mature people do.
Seek help - The video could show the young couple seeking help from healthcare activists/professionals who educate them on the choices available to them and the consequences of failing to engage in safe sexual behaviour.
Solve the issue - The issue is solved when the couple realises that if they want to engage in sex, it is incumbent on them to act maturely and commit to safe sexual practices so their futures as capitalist drones would be secure.
I figure that the folks in the Health Minisry aware that young Malaysians are filming themselves having sex - this information is obtained from their various WhatsApp chat groups with their Jakim counterparts - they realised there was a vast untapped market of young people who have no problems making videos about sex and that they were ripe for exploitation by the ministry.
Young Malaysians are already facing pressure from religious groups who seek to control their behaviour in a wide range of issues. Social problems are underreported or mischaracterised by zealous but hypocritical politicians, state-endorsed religious personalities and your average religious demagogue that ensures that young people are not afforded the choices and opportunities for safe sexual health that most developed countries offer their young people.
Furthermore, there is this tendency to co-opt Malaysians into propagating state-sanctioned bigotry and misinformation, the most recent and overt example is the demonisation of an oppositional politician with an essay writing contest. Young people who are marginalised by their peers because of their sexuality will have to put up with misinformed, bigoted videos by other young people who continue the bigoted narratives of the state.
Confused by the Devil
Jakim for instance has decided that sexual orientation can be changed and early this year they put out a video which promoted said claim. As reported in the press - "In the video, Jakim had likened sexual orientation with horse-riding, claiming that when someone realises that he has a ‘different’ orientation from others and wishes to change that orientation, he should receive extensive training and guidance.
“Jakim said to change one’s sexual orientation, one must intend to do so for God’s sake instead of being forced and repent one's homosexuality, in addition to leaving activities that would lead to same-sex relations. It also urged a repentant homosexual to fulfill his sexual desires through marriage, or subdue such desires by among others resorting to fasting. “
So when transgender activist Nisha Ayub asks how the Health Ministry can educate and engage in bigotry at the same time, the answer to that is obvious. Okay, let me make it more obvious. The quote that begins this article comes from a Muslim convert who earlier this year made the claim that the “LGBT culture” was an effort by “Satan to trick and lead humans astray.”
He made this claim at a conference - or should that be “covfefe” - officiated by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and guest included, minister in charge of Islamic affairs Jamil Khir Baharom and his deputy Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, PAS Ulama wing chief Mahfodz Mohamed, Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia president Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, and former Selangor menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim.
So this lecturer claims that the LGBT have been confused by the Devil to think that they are born with “souls opposite to their genders”. Apparently seeing things is what Malaysian lecturers do, like the one who sees a Christian conspiracy in the book of an opposition politician but offers no proof to back up his claim.
And while these bigots spew their hate in front of a willing audience of establishment (including opposition) politicians, the reality is that the LGBT community like every other minority community is made a scapegoat or demonised to strengthen the hegemon when it is in trouble. The problem of course is unlike other minorities, the LGBT community is on its own.
This of course is strange because there are many oppositional-inclined activists who do the hard work of spreading the Pakatan Harapan message but have to sublimate who they really are to “Save Malaysia”. Of course, the Umno establishment is no better. Five years ago, when writing about the LGBT community, I referenced the WikiLeaks cables –
“It may be cold comfort that what the Wikileaks cables exposed is that the homosexuality issue was being used as a political weapon and that the ruling regime was very aware that members of its own party were gay but this does very little in furthering the creation of a just and equal society.”
That is the problem with this country. We not only want to make young people share in the established bigotry and misinformation, we want them to disseminate it too. 
I do not know what will get us first - the hypocrisy or the bigotry.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini

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