Rehab centre for homosexuals seen as a waste of taxpayers’ money

Malaysian Aids Council president Raja Iskandar Shah says studies and testimonials by participants have shown such initiatives do not work.

(FMT) – The Malaysian Aids Council has described plans for a rehabilitation centre in Johor for homosexuals as being regressive and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The council’s president, Raja Iskandar Shah, said such centres did not work, citing studies on conversion therapy as well as testimonies by participants to back up his argument.

“We should always look at what history has done to (LGBT people), particularly young men, in regard to conversion therapy. They are very seriously damaged, which leads to lasting complications in terms of being able to accept themselves,” he told FMT.

Plans for such rehabilitation centres for homosexuals were announced last month by the Johor state government. It would also be used to rehabilitate those with divergent religious beliefs.

State executive councillor Fared Khalid, chairman of the state’s religious affairs committee, said the rehabilitation centre for those in same-sex relationships would be the first of its kind to be established in the country.

The centre is expected to be fully operational in July.

Gender studies professor Sharon Bong of Monash University Malaysia was concerned about the harm such a centre would have on the patient.

“When religion is used, indeed weaponised in this way to harm, the violation runs deeper, as religions uphold the sanctity of the human person.

“Anyone who regards Malaysia as their home deserves to be counted and treated as a person regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religious affiliation,” she said.

Bong said if any group needed to be rehabilitated it would be the “sexist, homophobic, racist, and the transphobic”.

Rights group Justice for Sisters had previously called on the Johor government to halt plans to establish such a centre, saying any move to change a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity was in violation of the Federal Constitution and international human rights law.

“The rehabilitation centre directly violates Article 5 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which safeguards the personal liberty, privacy and dignity of all Malaysian citizens,” the group said.

The group said results of a survey it conducted found that attempts to “rehabilitate” LGBTQ people may have long-term and severe impact, including a negative effect on their mental health, resulting in them dropping out of school, and harbouring suicidal thoughts.