Wearing a rainbow watch from Swatch’s Pride collection in Malaysia now carries a possible jail sentence of three years, under the country’s ban on “LGBTQ-related products.”
“(Swatch products) are subject to the Prohibition Order because they are publications that harm or may harm morality, public interest, and the interest of the state by promoting, supporting, and normalizing the LGBTQ+ movement which is not accepted by the general public in Malaysia,” said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement earlier this month.
Sale or possession of banned products carries the aforementioned jail sentence as well as up to 20,000 ringgit ($4,376) in fines.
The Malaysian government previously raided Swatch stores across the country in May, seizing 172 of the watches for having “LGBTQ connotations” and prompting a response from Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr.
“We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever,” Hayek said in a statement. “On the contrary, Swatch always promotes a positive message of joy in life. This is nothing political. We wonder how the Malaysian government will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that show up in the skies above Malaysia.”
Swatch’s Malaysia branch has claimed the raids were illegal, and is currently suing the Malaysian government for the seizure in the country’s High Court.
Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia punishable by up to twenty years in prison, and rights groups have reported a growing intolerance against the country’s LGBTQ+ community. The issue also drew attention last month when British band The 1975 was banned from the country, in response to lead singer Matty Healy’s controversial onstage remarks during the Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur.
The string of controversies comes at a politically contentious time for Malaysia. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, despite his history as a progressive in the country, recently declared that LGBTQ+ rights would not be recognized by his administration – a move which may be a response to calls from the opposition questioning his government’s commitment to the principles of Islam.
(Photo courtesy of Malay Mail)