The Malaysian government is demanding that concert organizers in the country install a “kill switch” to “cut off electricity supply if there is any unwanted incident” during a performance.
Teo Nie Ching, deputy communications and digital minister for the government, told the lower house of the Malaysian parliament that the government started asking concert organizers to install kill switches in response to a controversial same-sex kiss between members of the British band The 1975 earlier this year.
“We hope with stricter guidelines, foreign artists [will respect] local culture,” she said, according to the English-language Malaysian newspaper The Star.
The offending kiss, between The 1975 vocalist Matt Healy and fellow band member Ross MacDonald, sparked controversy in the conservative, majority-Muslim nation. Healy, who identifies as straight but has reportedly engaged in similar actions during other performances, kissed MacDonald following a rant against Malaysia’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
As a result, the remainder of the Good Vibes music festival in Kuala Lumpur, where the band was playing, was canceled.
The festival organizer, Future Sound Asia, blamed Healy for the loss of money stemming from the cancellation and demanded that the band pay $2.6 million in damages.
Future Sound Asia also claims the incident has damaged the public’s opinion of the Good Vibes festival, potentially affecting future ticket sales if more conservative concert-goers refuse to spend money.
The 1975 has also been banned from performing in Malaysia as a result of the incident.
Teo noted that police officers are conducting background checks on foreign artists before allowing them to perform in the country. Representatives of PUSPAL, the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artists, will also be monitoring concerts and music festival performances on site, along with local police — presumably to arrest future offenders — and representatives of the Foreign Ministry and Immigration Department, she added.
Teo said the decision to blacklist any band was not under her ministry’s jurisdiction, but under the purview of the Foreign Ministry and Immigration Department.
In response to a question by Umno politician Mohd Isam Mohd Isa on the government’s actions against LGBTQ content on streaming platforms, Teo said her ministry would contact platform operators if it discovered any “unsuitable” content being made accessible in the country.
Homosexuality and same-sex relations are criminalized in the Muslim-majority nation, carrying penalties of up to 20 years in prison, along with whipping, for any offenses.
LGBTQ advocates have also warned of growing intolerance, in part fueled by the government’s actions to crack down on expressions of LGBTQ identity or gender-nonconformity, and its promotion of conversion therapy programs that attempt to “change” people’s sexual orientation.
“The government’s use of the law to criminally prosecute LGBT people is only part of the story in Malaysia,” Kyle Knight, a senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch said last year following the release of a report on the persecution of LGBTQ individuals.
“Pervasive antipathy toward sexual and gender diversity influences law enforcement, judicial outcomes, family behavior, and public discourse in media toward and about LGBT people.”
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