It’s officially been announced that if you’re caught wearing a rainbow-themed Swatch watch in Malaysia, you could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. The government, in its most recent crackdown on LGBTQIA+ rights, has banned all products which they deem to be “LGBTQIA+ related.”
Any individual who wears, sells, imports or distributes the Swiss watchmaker’s rainbow-themed products, including watches, accessories or related packaging, faces not only the possibility of a jail term but also a fine of up to 20,000 ringgit ($4,375), as reported by CNN.
In a statement released by the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs, the governing body noted: “Swatch products have been banned as they are detrimental, or possibly detrimental, to morality, the public interest and national interest by promoting, supporting and normalizing the LGBTQ movement which is not accepted by the general public of Malaysia.”
This saga comes after an extensive Swatch watch raid in May by the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs wherein authorities seized 172 rainbow-themed watches.
Malaysia has always been an incredibly conservative country, but recent years its citizens have seen an uptake in increasingly strict anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. The current Malaysian federal penal code punishes oral and anal sex with up to 20 years in prison. Moreover, each state and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya also have sharia codes that generally criminalise gay sex and gender nonconformity.
Recently, the frontman of The 1975 Matty Healy was criticised after he condemned Malaysia’s homophobic laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage. While some applauded Healy’s act, others—including members of the LGBTQIA+ community—noted their unease that the statement could further exacerbate the government’s already increased hostility towards the queer community in the nation.
While a number of prominent gay rights advocacy groups in Malaysia have condemned the Swatch watch raid and ban, it’s evident that the Malaysian government show no signs of easing its restrictions—if anything, the conservative body is doing everything in its power to stamp out and eradicate the rights and well-being of every LGBTQIA+ individual in the nation.