Malaysia bans Swatch ‘LGBTQ’ watches; owners, sellers face up to 3 years in jail
Malaysia’s government has banned Swatch watches with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) theme and their related materials, including boxes, wrappers and accessories.
The country’s home ministry announced the move on Thursday, according to Malaysian media.
The ban is enacted under Section 7 of the country’s Printing Presses and Publications Act, a home ministry statement said.
It states that the home minister can ban items that could be detrimental to public order, morality, security or “alarm public opinion”.
The same action can be taken if the item “is likely to be contrary to any law or is otherwise prejudicial to or is likely to be prejudicial to public interest or national interest”.
The home ministry added that under Section 8(2) of the same Act, a person can be jailed for up to three years or fined up to RM20,000 (S$5,900), or both, for selling, distributing or owning banned materials.
In 2015, Malaysia’s then-Barisan Nasional government applied the same provisions to ban the yellow Bersih T-shirts, which had come to symbolise a demand for change in the country. The ruling was later struck down by the Court of Appeal.
In May, the authorities raided Swatch outlets in various parts of the country and seized around 170 rainbow-coloured timepieces from the company’s Pride Collection.
The watches were worth a total of US$14,000 (S$18,800).
The Swiss watchmaker then filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government.
Malaysia’s home ministry said the latest ban is necessary because the Swatch materials would otherwise promote, support and normalise the LGBTQ movement, which is not acceptable in the country.
Homosexuality is forbidden in Malaysia. Sodomy can be punished with imprisonment and corporal punishment, although enforcement is rare.