Malaysian gay activists challenge ban in court

(AP) – Activists launched a rare legal case on Tuesday aimed at fostering gay rights in Malaysia by challenging a police ban on an anti-homophobia arts festival.

The case highlights complaints about discrimination against gays at a time when international rights groups are urging authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia to abolish laws criminalising same-sex relations.

The acquittal this week of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomizing a male former aide prompted Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to criticise the Malaysian government for insisting on laws that make sodomy punishable by 20-year prison sentences.

Organisers of a ‘Sexual Independence’ festival held annually in Malaysia since 2008 filed a petition in the High Court in hopes of overturning a ban imposed last year on the relatively low-key event, which was supposed to feature musical performances, talks on sexuality issues and a poster exhibition.