By Azrul Mohd Khalib | September 18, 2012
The Malaysian Insider
SEPT 18 — Let’s see.
I often wear fitted, V-necked T-shirts. I can’t lay claim to having a muscular body but I am working out at the gym and lifting weights so that’s a work in progress. I did have to fight it out with a girl over a really nice bag this one time.
Ergo according to the Ministry of Education-endorsed (yes, despite their denials) guidelines/awareness material, I must be gay.
This latest move by the Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd (Teachers’ Foundation of Malaysia) and the Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Associations is quite simply steeped in ignorance, bigotry and clearly homophobic.
Lest we forget, back in April this year, the Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) had announced a nationwide campaign to 30 schools to campaign against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minorities utilising an awareness module targetting students. They misused their positions as parent-teacher association members to gain access to schools for this purpose.
Could this recent programme be an insidious reincarnation of that same movement, now clothed in the skin of the Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and the Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Associations? It seems like it. Quite successfully too as according to the foundation, they have managed to organise 10 seminars thus far which have reached 1,500 people.
I continue to be disturbed by this misuse of our education system to channel and cultivate fear, hate, prejudice and discrimination towards others who do not conform to stereotypical norms and social expectations. Without a doubt, that will basically be the net effect of these simplistic and ignorant guidelines which have been established to create awareness, identify and single out people or, in this case, children.
To what end, I wonder? What is the purpose of such a move to classify and label people? So that they can be dealt with, or in this case, to prevent them from becoming gays and lesbians? Without a doubt the so-called “symptoms” are superficial and reflect a mind-set dependent on pseudo-science, fear and ignorance to get the message across. Painting the programme as multi-religious and multi-cultural doesn’t make it right either.
So what happens when a group of students determine that a classmate fits these “symptoms”? When they have determined that this student is a lesbian or gay? Are they going to take matters into their hands and make him or her “straight”? In similar situations which have occurred here in Malaysia and around the world, this has resulted in mental and physical abuse, bullying, torture and even rape.
What happens when that child, depressed and facing abuse, decides to commit suicide or dies because of the physical abuse by self-anointed moral vigilantes?
This is why the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has deemed such actions which single out children for discrimination to be in violation of the 2001 Child Act. This is why we need to put a stop to such programmes which target our students, our children because they bring harm and cultivate prejudice and bigotry. These programmes are also illegal under Malaysian laws which protect children.
Who is going to be responsible if a child dies or is abused as a direct result of this awareness raising/prevention programme? Make no mistake, it will happen. Will the Yayasan Guru Malaysia, Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Associations and Ministry of Education be there to take responsibility? Or will they wash their hands like Pontius Pilate?
This denial of responsibility is already happening.
The Ministry of Education is already wiggling around like a worm on a stick trying to escape the maelstrom. Is this campaign being endorsed and supported by the Ministry of Education? You would be justified in thinking so.
The lame denial by the ministry is precisely that, lame and unconvincing. The deputy minister of education officiated the seminar on “Parenting in addressing the issue of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders)”. He was quoted, in defending the “guidelines”, as saying that the exposure of “symptoms” of gays and lesbians was the best approach to address the “unhealthy phenomenon” among students. Why is the Ministry of Education allowing for these people to place our teachers in a position to cultivate fear, hatred and prejudice among our children towards others?
Take the time to understand and be compassionate. Do not allow our teachers to be the vehicle and medium for our children to begin their young lives by learning to marginalise, hate, discriminate and harm those who are different and do not conform.
If it is true that the Ministry of Education had nothing to do with these guidelines, does not endorse or support them in any way, I call for the ministry to ban and reject such programmes from our schools. Let our schools be what they are supposed to be — places of learning and not places of discrimination and intolerance.
Azrul Mohd Khalib works on HIV/AIDS, sex and human rights issues. He is becoming cynical and is in danger of losing his sense of humour and mind. He also runs and is battling an addiction to the “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series. Azrul can be contacted at [email protected]