BANGKOK: Malaysian leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday said the country cannot accept LGBT rights such as same-sex marriage, dismissing them as “western” values.
The blunt remarks come against a backdrop of what activists say is a growing intolerance towards the LGBT community in Malaysia.
“At this moment, we do not accept LGBT but if they (the West) want to accept, that is their business. Don’t force it on us,” Mr Mahathir, 93, told a packed audience at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, according to AFP.
“The institution of marriage, the institution of the family has now been disregarded in the West. Why should we follow that? Our value system is as good,” he added.
“If they (the West) one day decided to walk around naked, do we have to follow?”
Malaysia operates on a dual-track legal system that gives Islamic courts the right to handle religious and family matters for Muslim citizens, who make up more than 60% of the population.
Islamic laws are also overseen by individual states in Malaysia.
Mahathir, who returned to the premiership this year after a surprise victory in national elections in May, rode to victory based on widespread frustration with corruption in Malaysia.
In September Mahathir said same-sex unions were not suitable for Malaysia, which he doubled down on in his comments in Bangkok.
“For example, in the West now, men marry men, women marry women, and then the family is not made up of the father, mother and child, but it’s two men adopting one child from somebody,” he said Thursday during the Q&A.
“They call themselves a family.”
Despite his stance, Mahathir recently denounced the caning of two women accused of having lesbian sex in Malaysia.
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The punishment was carried out in front of more than 100 spectators in an Islamic court in early September in the northern state Terengganu.
It was the first time women have been caned for same-sex relations in Malaysia, according to campaigners, heightening fears among the country’s LGBT community.