What Does It Mean To Be “LGBT” In Malaysia?

Recently, a Malaysian gay couple’s romantic wedding proposal video went viral online. This proposal has prompted Sepanggar Umno youth representative, Shyazreen Asri, to lodge a report to the relevant authorities to investigate and take action against them. Some of you may wonder, “why would the state be interested in the romantic activities of two consenting adults?”

The acronym LGBT stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender”. Civil partnership/same sex marriage is not recognised in Malaysia, as per as Section 69 (d) of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 states: “A marriage which takes place after the appointment date (March 1, 1982) shall be void if the parties are not respectively male and female.”

On top of that, Malaysian law currently provides for fines, whipping and/or up to a 20-year imprisonment for homosexual acts, involving either man/man or woman/woman. Furthermore, transgender individuals have often been arrested by police officers under the civil laws governing “public indecency”, and if they are Muslim, they can be further charged by religious officers under Sharia Laws for “impersonating” women.


Laws of Malaysia Act A1483 – Penal Code

Section 377A: Carnal intercourse against the order of nature

“Any person who has sexual connection with another person by the introduction of the penis into the anus or mouth of the other person is said to commit carnal intercourse against the order of nature. … Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual connection necessary to the offence described in this section.”

Section 377B: Punishment for committing carnal intercourse against the order of nature

“Whoever voluntarily commits carnal intercourse against the order of nature shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.”

Section 377D: Outrages on decency

“Any person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of, any act of gross indecency with another person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.”


Sharia law

Islamic Sharia laws, applying to male and female Muslims, criminalises both male/male and female/female sexual acts with up to three years imprisonment, fines and whipping.

For example, the Sharia Penal law in Pulau Pinang confers penalties for sodomy and lesbian relations with fines of RM5,000, 3 years imprisonment and/or 6 lashes of the whip. All these penalties can be combined.


It is widely debated that the current Malaysian Law, apart from discriminating the LGBT community, it also potentially drives the risk of HIV infections due to the “underground” commission of sexual intercourse as a result of fear for punishments. Also, we do not have anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBT community in employment, apart from joint adoption by same-sex couples being prohibited. Besides, commercial surrogacy by gay couples is also illegal.

The lack of protection whatsoever for the LGBT community are seemingly contrary to the internationally guaranteed rights to non-discrimination, privacy, and freedom of expression recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Perhaps, it is time for us to have a more open dialogue in these LGBT questions, to create a more accepting and non-discriminating society.