The British Raj introduced Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which was drafted in 1860 – and it is the same Section 377 that is in the Malaysian Penal Code, points out Wandering Malaysian.
The jailing of Anwar Ibrahim for allegedly consensual sex with an adult male puts Malaysia in the spotlight for being rabidly homophobic.
Whether Anwar is guilty or innocent of this charge is not the issue here (although the tainted court process and evidence of political chicanery has put Malaysia’s entire judiciary on trial, never mind the credibility of the government).
The real question is why is consensual sex between two adults of the same sex a heinous crime in Malaysia?
To put it simply, Anwar is in jail today because of the British colonial Raj in India. The British Raj introduced Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which was drafted in 1860!
- Sign up for Aliran's free daily email updates or weekly newsletters or both
- Make a one-off donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB a/c 8004240948
- Make a pledge or schedule an auto donation to Aliran every month or every quarter
- Become an Aliran member
So 155 years later, in the age of Fifty Shades of Grey, poor Anwar is being subject to the moral rectitude of the British Raj. Section 377 of Malaysia’s Penal Code, modelled after the Indian Penal Code (note the same section number!), criminalises carnal intercourse against the order of nature i.e. oral and anal sex. Yes, even oral sex between heterosexual adults.
So clearly we have an antiquated law. But how many times has this law been enforced in Malaysian history? According to Simranjit Kaur Gill, there have been a grand total of seven charges brought under this law since 1938. Four out of these seven charges were connected to Anwar! Hmmm ….do the words selective prosecution, abuse of the legal process, witch hunt and political persecution come to mind?
What have the Indians done with their Section 377 of the Penal Code which was the fountain of the sodomy laws for the Commonwealth? Why, they repealed it of course: in 2009.
Two years earlier, Singapore modified Section 377a of their Penal Code to exclude consensual oral and anal sex (well in typical Singaporean fashion, of course). So where does that leave Malaysia?
Leaving religion out of the bedroom and with apologies to the Sharia fans out there, it is time to follow the Indians. (There has been no surge in homosexuality in India since 2009 and the right wing Hindus there are as equally worked up over sexual morality as our Malaysian Sharia advocates.)
So let us repeal Section 377….and free Anwar, taking another step towards a more inclusive Malaysia.