Malaysian boot camp for "effeminate" schoolboys draws outrage

Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:58am EDT
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By Razak Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian state's move to send 57 schoolboys with "effeminate tendencies" to a boot camp aimed at counseling them on masculine behavior has angered rights groups in the Southeast Asian country.

The four-day camp, which ended on Thursday, included religious lectures, visiting local mosques and aerobics workouts.

"They have crossed the line...we are disgusted and offended that a child's feminine traits or behavior is seen as being something that is evil and that should be purged," said Ivy Josiah, a child's rights campaigner and executive director of the Malaysian rights group, Women's Aid Organization.

The schoolboys, aged 13 to 17 and living in the northeastern Malaysian state of Terengganu, were selected for the boot camp for displaying "some feminine characteristics," state education department director Razali Daud was quoted as saying in the New Straits Times newspaper on Tuesday.

The camp's establishment was prompted by what Razali said was a rising number of effeminate schoolboys in the state.

Homosexuality is a taboo subject that is rarely discussed in this mainly Muslim country and sex between males is an offence punishable under criminal law.

Razali subsequently told the newspaper on Thursday that the camp was a character-building program and was not aimed at changing the students' sexual preference. He declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Senior state and federal education officials also refused to comment after the issue prompted widespread criticism.   Continued...