The Department of Education in the Malaysian state of Terengganu has been sending "effeminate boys" to a boot camp to mend their ways — but at least this is drawing criticism from activist groups.
The camp offers physical training and other activities and is designed to prevent the boys from developing feminine traits, The Star newspaper reported, quoting Razali Daud, the education department's director. The boys involved were selected from most schools in the state," Daud is quoted as saying. "They were carefully vetted before a final selection was made."
The 66 teens, ranging in age from 13 to 18, "undergo religious and motivational classes and physical guidance," according to the Huffington Post. Says Razali Daud, the state education director, the four-day program will "guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return...Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future."
This is perhaps not as shocking as it should be given that homosexuality is still illegal in Malaysia. But human rights groups there and abroad are appalled at an action that's not only discriminatory, but, in the opinion of one official, may violate the Child Act 2001, which states that "every child is entitled to protection and assistance in all circumstances without regard to distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, social origin or physical, mental or emotional disabilities or any other status." Legalese aside, this could be highly traumatic for these kids: says Malaysia's Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil, "The experience of being singled out on the basis of perceived characteristics is an extremely traumatizing experience, in particular for adolescent teens. Such profiling has potentially serious psychological repercussions and could harm the development and mental health of the children, as it exposes them to prejudices among their peers and members of their family and community."