No, smokers don’t have less rights than Malaysian LGBTs

No, smokers don’t have less rights than Malaysian LGBTs

By Hafidz Baharom

A short piece appeared on Southeast Asia Mashable had a Malaysian lawmaker (https://sea.mashable.com/malaysia/779/lgbt-community-has-more-rights-than-smokers-malaysian-mp-lam) saying that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT). Malaysians have more rights than smokers.

Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin was quoted saying this after seven people and one lawmaker were fined for smoking in Parliament grounds, now a designated and enforced smoke free zone. And this cannot be further from the truth.

Earlier this year, a club was raided by the authorities for being labelled a LGBT club. Do you see cigar and cigarette shops going through something similar? Obviously not.

Do you see portraits and photographs of smokers being taken down during art festivals simply for smoking a cigarette? Nope.

Do you have homes and even hotels being raided for having someone inside smoking a cigarette, or being taken to court for simply smoking in your car? Of course not. That would be ludicrous.

And obviously you don’t get beaten walking down the street simply for smoking because that would be insane. Yet, this is what happened to a transgender in Negri Sembilan on 15 August this year.

More recently, do editors get a show cause letter from the Home Ministry for writing about smokers? Because this happened to Chinese newspaper Oriental Daily in this month. For some reason, it was not reported in the press. Perhaps because the same hush letter was received by those writing about it, or maybe the editors believed it not to be newsworthy.

Yes, Bung Mokhtar was saying such in jest. However, the discrimination faced by the LGBT community are not in the same league as smokers – let alone LGBT smokers who face both, and yet end up lending lighters for a straight guy to impress a girl.

But the Kinabatangan MP does have a very minor point – not having a smoking area in Parliament is discriminatory. Just like not allowing LGBTs to be themselves in closed, private places such as clubs or even their own homes, or even have a portrait or picture featured at an art gallery, or even a piece of news quoting them, is discriminatory.

Thus, if Bung Mokhtar is griping about smokers not being able to smoke in parliament, then he should be able to empathise with the transgender who cannot walk down the street without being harassed by the authorities.

If Bung Mokhtar believes that perhaps the authorities will raid parliamentary offices to check for smokers, he can empathise with the Malaysian LGBTs who get raided in their homes by enforcement agencies.

If Bung Mokhtar thinks it is in bad taste to fine smokers, then he should empathise with the Malaysian LGBTs caught going to clubs only to end up getting fined and being given a mandatory ticket to attend counselling.

So if Bung Mokhtar wants to take the issue seriously about smokers rights, then we would like him to take the issues faced by the LGBTs and human rights here in Malaysia just as seriously as well, if not more.

See, unlike smokers who can switch to a non-nicotine vaping device and not get caught as mentioned by the Deputy Health Minister, LGBTs don’t have that same choice.

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