‘Contest not meant to discriminate against LGBT community’

Dr-Lokman-lgbtPETALING JAYA: The health ministry (MOH) says its creative video competition on sexual and reproductive health among adolescents is not against human rights and was never intended to discriminate against any specific group.

Its deputy director-general Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the National Creative Video Competition on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) 2017 was in line with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, where it is the right of children and adolescents to obtain accurate and age-appropriate information.

“(The competition) indicates that MOH is concerned about adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health matters which, if neglected, have dire consequences on their health,” he said in a statement today.

Lokman was responding to a Reuters report yesterday which said the ministry was holding a contest on how to “prevent” homosexuality and transgenderism.

The report cited details from the ministry’s website which said the contest invites participants to submit video clips for categories including one called “gender identity disorder”.

The ministry described gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria, by citing examples of people who are gay, lesbian, transsexual and tomboys.

The contest guidelines added that the videos must include elements showing the “consequences” of being LGBT, as well as how to “prevent, control and seek help” for them.

Reuters also quoted transgender activist Nisha Ayub from the Seed Foundation, a charity working with transgender people, as saying that the contest was “encouraging discrimination, hatred and even violence towards the minorities”.

Lokman lashed out at Nisha’s comments, saying the contest was meant to help enhance the knowledge and practice of healthy lifestyles among adolescents concerning sexual and reproductive health.

“This creative video competition is purely to tap the knowledge and creativity of adolescent to adolescent on sexual and reproductive health-related matters and does not intend to create discrimination against any particular group,” he said.

According to Lokman, the topic was chosen based on statistics showing increased SRH-related problems.

“The Population and Family Survey by LPPKN (National Population and Family Development Board) showed the trend of sexual activity among adolescents has increased from 0.9% (1994) to 2.2% (2004) and 4.8% (2014). (Meanwhile) the Global School Health Survey (2012) among school-going adolescents 13-17 years showed 8.3% of them have had sex before and 50.4% of them had their first sexual experience before the age of 14,” he said.

“Unsafe sex results in sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. National HIV surveillance showed the notification rate of HIV among adolescents 13-19 years is on an increasing trend from 1.97 per 100,000 adolescents (2013) to 2.25 per 100,000 adolescents (2015).

“The surveillance also revealed a significant rise in the percentage of HIV infection among the homosexuals in Malaysia from 0.8% (2010) to 46.0% (2016).”

Lokman said scientific evidence shows close association between the risk of HIV and unhealthy SRH practices, adding that this could be deterred through preventive activities and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

“In the context that ‘prevention is better than cure’, this competition aims to empower adolescents to make wise decisions and choices regarding their sexual reproductive health,” he said.

He added that the ministry embraced the principle of health for all without discrimination in the provision of health services.

He said it had specific guidelines for all health workers to treat every client equally and with due respect.

“In fact, MOH has gone the extra mile by providing services based on their specific health needs and collaborating closely with other agencies and NGOs.”

He added that the ministry is also in the process of expanding HIV screenings, and that it has provided funding to NGOs for HIV-related activities.