Malaysia defends contest on how to 'prevent' homosexuality, cites youth health concerns

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's health ministry on Saturday defended its decision to host a contest on how to "prevent" homosexuality and transgenderism, saying the competition was aimed at helping teens make better health decisions.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on Friday activists had criticised the contest, saying that it could fan hatred and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In response, Malaysian deputy director-general of health Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the contest, titled the National Creative Video Competition on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, was to gather views and enhance knowledge among teens on healthy lifestyle practices.

"This creative video competition is purely to tap knowledge and creativity of adolescents on sexual and reproductive health related matters and does not intend to create discrimination to any particular group," he said in a statement.

The contest on the ministry's website calls on participants to submit video clips for categories including one on "gender identity disorder".

Its 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.

Other categories include cybersex and sexual reproductive health.

Lokman said the topics were chosen as statistics showed an increase in sexual and reproductive health problems among teens, including higher rates of sexual activity and a rise in HIV transmission.

The ministry did not discriminate against any group in providing health services, including LGBT people, he added.

"We have specific guidelines for all health workers to treat every client equally and with due respect to an individual’s right," he said.

Activists say intolerance of LGBT people has spiked in recent years in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic Southeast Asian country that is majority Muslim.

Transgender activist Nisha Ayub said the contest encouraged "discrimination, hatred and even violence" towards minority groups.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff)

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