Metro Weekly

Owning an LGBTQ Swatch in Malaysia Can Get You in 3 Years in Jail

Malasia bans rainbow Swatches, claiming they are "detrimental" to morality because they normalize the LGBTQ movement.

Illustration by Todd Franson; Original image – Swatch.

Malaysia’s government has announced that all Swatch products containing LGBTQ or Pride-themed elements — including watches, wrappers, and boxes — are banned.

Anyone found in possession of any of the aforementioned items could be jailed for up to three years, fined up to 20,000 ringgit, or approximately $4,375, or both, reports the Associated Press. 

The ban was published in the country’s Federal Gazette — making it official — as part of a printing law that allows the Home Affairs Minister to censor or restrict news or information if doing so would be “in the interest of security or public order.”

The Malaysian government expressed concerns that Pride-themed or rainbow-colored products were “detrimental, to morality, public interest and national interest by promoting, supporting and normalizing the LGBTQ movement which is not accepted by the general public.”

“The Malaysian government states again its commitment to ensuring public safety and peace by monitoring and controlling all forms of publications to curb the spread of elements, teachings and movements that contradict the local socio-cultural setup,” the Home Ministry added.

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim nation with laws in place criminalizing same-sex intimacy. Punishments can range from caning under Sharia law, or up to 20 years in prison for violating the country’s colonial-era anti-sodomy law.

Law enforcement previously raided 16 Swatch stores back in May and confiscated 172 watches from Swatch’s Pride Collection — which come in an array of colors that correspond to the colors on the Pride flag, with two rainbow-colored loops on their straps.

Swatch subsequently sued the Malaysian government for damages and demanded the return of the seized watches. It also contested the idea that the watches were harmful to morality, according to Sky News.

Swatch company officials condemned the seizure of the merchandise back in May.

“We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever,” Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr. said in a statement at the time.

“On the contrary, Swatch always promotes a positive message of joy in life. This is nothing political. We wonder how the Malaysian government will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that show up in the skies above Malaysia.”

LGBTQ advocates accused the government of overreacting to the symbolism behind the Pride Collection.

“The government’s decision to ban ownership of LGBTQ-themed Swatches is not just an overreaction, it’s a clear indication of broader state-sanctioned discrimination against the community,” Dhia Rezki Rohaizad, the vice president of the LGBTQ advocacy group JEJAKA, told CNN.

“It showcases an alarming trend where symbols of pride and acts of solidarity with the LGBTQ community are met with harsh and disproportionate government responses,” Dhia added. ” It’s a disturbing paradox. As more individuals and groups come forward in support of the LGBTQ community, the state’s pushback grows increasingly aggressive.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!