The other day, my niece was shaking her head over a piece about re-educating sissy boys by sending them to special camps. I groaned, assuming she was talking about some right-wing county, or a country ruled by religious bigots who can't bear the thought that boys may be growing up a little different to their ideal macho man, that is, not growing up to be the kinda man who's going to march around mountains with a hunting gun, or some other so-called masculine activity.
But no. Jak just pointed out to me that this was Malaysia, or to be more specific, the state education department in Terengganu. Yeah, I know, sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn't it. It gets worse. Here's what the Education Dept Director said, according to The Star newspaper:
.... the boot camp was designed to prevent the boys from developing feminine traits which could hamper their future. “The boys involved were selected from most schools in the state. They were carefully vetted before a final selection was made,” he told The Star. He added that if such tendencies were not curbed at a young age, it would lead to bigger problems for them in the future. He added among factors that encouraged effeminacy were parents' action in dressing boys in girls clothing as they had really wanted a girl or if the boys were surrounded by female siblings.
Oh, right, he would have to blame us woman for this perceived horror. Yep, it's always our fault. Have too many girls in the family and this is what happens. My husband and his brother (and their far more numerous sisters) might have something to say about that!!
And then there is this:
Department director Razali Daud explained that the four-day camp in Besut admitted boys identified by their schools for displaying “feminine qualities”. He said the 66 schoolboys were showing behaviours that were not “usually displayed by a normal male of their age.”
Oh? Who sez what it normal here anyway, eh?
“We understand that some people end up as mak nyah (transvestites) or homosexuals, but we will do our best to limit the number,” Razali was quoted as saying.
Actually, as any well-educated person knows, the true horror is telling kids who are outliers in the spectrum of what is possible that there's something the matter with them. True horror is blaming these kids, when the fault lies with the faulty perception of prejudiced people who create senseless labels based on their meaningless assumptions.
A boy has long eyelashes and curly hair? He must be a sissy. He prefers to read rather than play a rough game of football? He's a sissy. He paints or plays music or sings a beautiful soprano or is very shy or he stutters -- he's got to be a sissy. He's skinny and under-developed for his age? He's a sissy.
That's the first crime against the child concerned. The second crime occurs when authorities decide that being a "sissy" -- whatever that stupid categorisation involves -- means that the boy will grow up to be somehow "bad". And bad encompasses being gay. That's right, against all medical and scientific evidence to the contrary, sissy = gay and ... get this, also against all evidence to the contrary, you can talk 'em out of being gay (or trans or anything else you don't agree with) if you catch 'em young enough. Sheesh. Don't even get me started on the idea that being born GLBT is a sin.
I'm happy to say that there has been outrage in Malaysia about this, including statements from federal minister Senator Datuk Seri Shahrizat and the federal Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
“We believe that such ‘boot camps’ must be abolished on the basis that they are harmful and do not serve the best interest of the child, and are therefore in clear violation of the Child Act 2001,” said Shahrizat in a statement today. “Every child is entitled to protection and assistance in all circumstances without regard to distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, social origin or physical, mental or emotional disabilities or any other status.”
The Terengganu Education Director has been back-peddling like mad, hopefully because someone has pointed out to him that what he said was not only pathetically stupid, but also woefully incorrect and viciously cruel.
What can we do to make sure this kind of silliness doesn't happen again? Well you can sign the petition here.