Owners of Swatch LGBTQ Watches in Malaysia Could Face Fine, up to 3 Years’ Jail

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Malaysia on Thursday (Aug 10) banned Swatch watches and accessories containing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) elements, with authorities saying the products “may be harmful to morality as well as public and national interest”.

Those who own these timepieces may also face a jail term of up to three years, a fine of up to RM20,000 (US$4,375), or both.

The ban, issued by Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs, covers all Swatch products that contain LGBTQ features including boxes, wrapping and accessories. 

Earlier in May, the ministry reportedly confiscated the rainbow-coloured watches as they were inscribed with “LGBTQ”. 

The seized items were part of Swatch’s Pride collection. Instead of the seven colours found in a rainbow, the watches featured six. One of the most well-known symbols of the LGBTQ community is the six-colour pride flag.

The ministry said the ban was necessary as the products may harm morality and Malaysia’s interests by “promoting, supporting and normalising the LGBTQ movement that is not accepted by the general public”. 

It is also an offence to print, import, produce, reproduce, publish, sell, circulate, offer to sell or distribute such items, under Section 8(2) of the Printing and Publishing Act.

The ban is also in line with Section 7 of the same Act, which states that the sale and distribution of such products are prohibited in Malaysia, the ministry said. 

In a lawsuit filed on Jun 24, Swatch said it was seeking compensation –  including in the form of aggravated and exemplary damages – and the return of 172 watches worth RM64,795, the Malay Mail reported. 

The announcement of the ban followed renewed scrutiny of LGBTQ rights in Malaysia after the government last month halted a music festival in Kuala Lumpur.

It pulled the plug after the frontman of British pop rock band The 1975 kissed a male bandmate onstage and criticised the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws.

The discussion on LGBTQ rights also comes at a politically sensitive time in multi-ethnic, multi-faith Malaysia.