Alleged ‘LGBTQ’ inscription on Swatch watches seized by Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry

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29th May 2023 – (Kuala Lumpur) The Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry seized hundreds of watches from Swatch’s Pride collection in May, claiming the letters “LGBTQ” were inscribed on their faces. A source from the government was quoted as saying that if the watches had only contained rainbow colours, they would not have been seized. The Pride collection features six colours, one fewer than the seven in a rainbow. The watches were confiscated from 172 outlets across 11 shopping malls in Malaysia, with the majority carrying the six-stripe Pride Flag in their designs. Netizens had linked the collection to British rock band Coldplay’s support for the LGBT community. In response, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek said the watches contained no reference to the LGBT community.

Source: Swatch

Religious Affairs Minister Mohd Na’im Mokhtar recently stated that Malaysia had taken steps to curb the spread of LGBT ideology, including rehabilitation programmes conducted by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia. The minister also said that Malaysia does not recognise the LGBT movement but does not discriminate against its members.

The seizure of the Swatch watches is reflective of the wider issue of discrimination and persecution faced by the LGBT community in Malaysia. Homosexuality is illegal in the country, and those found guilty can face up to 20 years in prison. The government has also taken steps to curb the influence of the community, including banning LGBT groups from attending an international arts festival in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

The government’s stance onLGBT rights has drawn criticism from human rights groups and the international community. The United Nations has called on Malaysia to repeal laws that discriminate against LGBT individuals and to ensure the protection of their rights. While some progress has been made, such as the removal of a ban on transgender individuals from changing their legal gender, the government’s continued enforcement of discriminatory laws and practices remains a concern.

The seizure of the Swatch watches is also a reminder of the challenges faced by companies that support LGBT rights in countries where such support is not widely accepted. Companies that openly support LGBT rights can face backlash from conservative groups and governments, as well as potential boycotts from consumers who disagree with their stance. However, many companies have chosen to take a stand on the issue, recognizing the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in society as a whole.

The seizure of the Swatch watches in Malaysia highlights the ongoing discrimination and persecution faced by the LGBT community in the country. While progress has been made in recent years, such as the removal of certain restrictions on transgender individuals, the government’s continued enforcement of discriminatory laws and practices remains a concern. The incident also highlights the challenges faced by companies that openly support LGBT rights in countries where such support is not widely accepted. As the global conversation around LGBT rights continues, it is important for governments and individuals alike to recognise the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of society.