V-neck advice could damage children: Activist

The Malaysian Education Ministry-endorsed guidelines on identifying gays and lesbians may put men in awkward situations, an activist has said.

Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik, a gay rights activist, advised the ministry to rely on sound research instead of endorsing pseudo-experts and quacks as this could prove damaging to children, liberal news portal Malaysiakini.com reported.

Seksualiti Merdeka is an annual sexuality rights festival held in Kuala Lumpur.

It features talks, forums, workshops, art, theatre and music performances, and film screenings, organised by a coalition of Malaysian NGOs and artistes. It was banned by the Home Ministry last November.

In a Facebook statement, Mr Pang, 38, said education was an important tool to address inequality but the ministry had instead sought to use it for teaching hate, promoting inequality and playing politics.

It was reported on Wednesday that the Education Ministry had endorsed guidelines for the identification of gays and lesbians in schools.

Among the "symptoms" of gays in the guidelines are men with a muscular build who wear V-neck T-shirts, and who like to carry big handbags, similar to those carried by women.

Mr Pang said that the ministry should teach all children to be confident and to respect one another, no matter who they are.

He said: "There are a few good books and studies out there they could read instead of relying on pseudo-experts and quacks."

Mr Pang referred to research, which he said shows that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity can result in greater harm to the children.

He pointed out that there was a high rate of suicide among many groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual (LGBT) people who were forced into unhappy marriages.

He said: "The claims (guidelines) are not based on evidence or empirical observation but based on hearsay and are very insulting to intelligence."

Seminars

Mr Pang said Seksualiti Merdeka was prepared to brief the Education Ministry if its officers were willing to listen to reliable research on the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, two teachers' groups, with government blessing, have held seminars recently to advise parents on homosexuality's supposedly tell-tale signs, Malaysian media have reported.

"Definitely we support the seminars because it's good for parents to be exposed to LGBT symptoms," Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi told AFP on saturday, while declining direct comment on the guidelines.

"At least preventive action can be taken," said Mohamad Puad, who officiated one of the seminars in Penang state earlier this week.

The minister added that homosexuals "contribute to HIV, so why should we support their activities?"

'Gay' Get-Up:

'Symptoms of a gay' include: Men wearing V-neck T-shirts, having a muscular build and who like to carry large handbags

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