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November 22, 2007 Posted by | Animal Pics, Blogroll | 6 Comments

no sex party going on at penang fitness centre, say those arrested

 
November 22, 2007
no sex party going on at penang fitness centre, say those arrested
By SH Lim
 
Following the recent raid of a fitness centre in Penang where 37 men were arrested, it has emerged that contrary to media reports, there was no “sex party” in progress when police raided the establishment. SH Lim gives readers an insight of the case and how the community has responded.
 
 
“I did nothing wrong,” Eric Goh wrote to PT Foundation, a community-based organisation providing HIV/AIDS education and sexuality awareness and empowerment programmes, in Malaysia. Goh is one of the 37 – 34 Malaysians and two non-nationals – who was detained by the Malaysian police for two days.

articlepic
A photo of the arrest that was published in The Star.

“Acting on a public tip-off,” the police on Sunday, Nov 4, at about 7.30pm, raided G-Word Fitness Centre, in Penang the Associated Press reported. In the same article, it said that the police informed that it found “used condoms strewn all over the floor, seven tubes of lubrication jelly, 20 gay magazines, four pornographic VCDs and six boxes of new condoms.” George Town The Officer in Charge of Police District (OCPD) Asst Comm Azam Abd Hamid was quoted as saying that at the time of the raid “a sex party was in progress.”

But not so according to Goh and some others.

“We were fully dressed when the police came in,” Goh said in an email to the PLUPenang newslist that he and his UK friend were there for a quick workout before meeting his family for dinner but instead ended in the lockup “for two unforgettable humiliating and tragic nights.” The detainees were released after signing a bond. Although the case is not closed at the time of publishing this article, observers say those arrested are unlikely to be charged.

One detainee informed that he and the others were sent to a lock-up, then to court before a magistrate and remanded for two days. “We were all put in handcuffs and chains like criminals,” he said. Other detainees told of similar experiences.

“What we went through was beyond words. The humiliation, the verbal insults, striping to our underwear in a dirty and cold cell full of graffiti and bugs; shit and shower in the same place; handcuffed and chained even when we went to the toilet and while eating. Those with high blood pressure and diabetic problems were without medication for 48 hours,” Goh added.

Help from the Community
Throughout this ordeal, some organisations and individuals stepped up to the plate working round the clock to help. PT Foundation was in contact with the Legal Aid Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and with people from PLUPenang. Darryl, P.H. Yap and Bern Chua contacted friends in Penang to find a lawyer to represent the detainees. Yap and Chua spent full days at the station and in the magistrates’ court, liaising between those detained and the lawyer. P. H. Yap and his friends bought food and refreshments – reportedly paid for by the owner of G-Word – for the detainees.

“I am sure many others lend a helping hand. I am very encouraged by their actions, and wish to thank them for their selfless community spirit,” said Raymond Tai, Head of MSM Programme, PT Foundation.

Why the Raid?
A local newspaper, The Star, owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a national political party, quoted the police as saying that the raid was part of its ongoing “Ops Bersih (operation clean) aimed at keeping all types of vice activities in check.”

Other reasons have however been posited. According to some people, the rather “harsh” treatment arose because the owner of G-Word Fitness Centre was not around and was not contactable during the raid. It was speculated that things might have turned out quite differently if the owner was there to smooth things over with the police.

Shanon Shah of Amnesty International Malaysia pointed out that “raids like this don’t happen in isolation. One raid leads to another, and it’s usually a political tactic to divert the people from more pressing issues of concern. The thing is, we have to keep an eye out.”

The case is being closely watched by the gay community as well as local and international human rights organisations.

The Penal Code
Section 377 of Malaysia’s Penal Code, which prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and acts of “gross indecency,” hangs like the proverbial sword of Damocles over the heads of gay men. Although the laws do not explicitly mention homosexuality or homosexual acts (after being amended in 1989 to be gender neutral), the laws are available as a tool to intimidate, harass, extort and exploit gay men and gay-friendly businesses. The attendant publicity – the potential outing – is that very thing which makes gay men vulnerable. The press too is not ashamed to exploit this vulnerability selling itself with sensational news.

There are no known cases of the laws being used against consenting adults, gay or straight, except in the controversial case of Former Malaysian DPM Anwar Ibrahim who was convicted in 2000 for sodomy but the conviction was reversed in 2004.

The Malaysian government’s approach to Penal Code 377 is no different from the Singapore government’s application of Section 377A of the Penal Code. Both governments continue to perpetuate prejudice and execute a law that unjustly discriminates and leaves a segment of the population vulnerable to exploitation. The Singapore government, after an open debate, has nonetheless proudly and publicly declared that anal intercourse between heterosexual couples is legal but not so for gay men. The Malaysian government says nothing but continues to invoke that code when dealing with gay men’s sexuality.

In the context of AIDS prevention and outreach programmes, Raymond Tai of PT Foundation said: “This draconian Penal Code 377 continues to allow the authorities to drive gay-friendly saunas underground, operating as ‘fitness centres,’ ‘spas,’ etc. This in turn encourages extortions by enforcement officers and poses a big challenge for us at PTF to do safer sex outreach to these places.” PTF’s current recourse is to engage in closed-door discussions with government and enforcement officers so that PTF is able to take small practical steps to keep its community protected.

What Needs to be Done
Anal intercourse between consenting adults regardless of their sexual orientation – must be decriminalised. Simply because the law is inhumane and unjust. There is no longer any justification for the discrimination of gay people and the criminalisation of the anal intercourse. With decriminalisation, the gay community would be less vulnerable to unreasonable searches and raids.

In the mean time, gay-focused and human rights organisations within and without country – PT Foundation, Suaram, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, women’s groups and others – will need to engage with the civil society to widen the democratic space for Malaysians, where there is real respect for equality in a diverse society. Malaysians need to be educated more about their civil liberties and mobilised to stand up and speak out against discrimination of minorities. The socio-political climate needs to change before taking on Section 377.

At present the local gay organisations lack a locally based organised response mechanism to engage with the law in situations like the raid on G-Word. PT Foundation advocates for more grassroots-based organisation to mobilise and is offering to train interested groups and volunteers in basic human rights, arrests and detention issues so that they can assist should more raids occur.

PT Foundation is seeking the Legal Aid Centre’s advice on this matter, and encourage all those who are concerned to write in. PFT is also offering para-legal training to those who wish to volunteer their services, hiring staff and seeking volunteers for a number of programmes they are running, for details please check the web site and/or email ptf@ptfmalaysia.org. ae

 
Related Articles
penang police arrest 37 men at ”sex party”
Related Sites
PT Foundation
PTF recruitment info

November 22, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, Gay General, Gay Issue & Rights-Overseas | 1 Comment