Malaysia’s Home Ministry has announced on Aug. 10 that all Swatch watches bearing LGBT+ elements will be banned, with wearers risking a three year jail term.
Malaysia’s Home Ministry has officially banned “any publication relating to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and + Plus (LGBTQ+) in any form available on Swatch watches in any collection including boxes, wraps, accessories or any other related item“.
The ban was gazetted under Malaysia’s 1984 Printing and Publishing act, and anyone convicted of breaching the ban can be imprisoned for up the three years or fined up to RM20,000 (S$5,900).
The Home Ministry’s statement said that the Malaysian government was “committed to preventing the spread of elements that are harmful or may harm morality, public interest, and society”.
In this case, the harm was caused by the promotion, supporting and normalisation of the “LGBTQ+ movement”.
In May 2023, Malaysian Home Ministry officers conducted raids on Swiss watchmaker Swatch’s 16 outlets in Malaysia, confiscating 172 watches valued at 64,795 RM (S$19,139) according to Reuters.
There they seized watches related to Swatch’s “Pride Collection”, ostensibly because of the “LGBTQ” lettering on the watches.
The collection featured several watches each in a colour of the Pride flag.
The mono coloured watches did not appear to have any wording on the watch other than that of Swatch, although each contained a small rainbow on its loops.
There were also two white watches with rainbow elements, one of which had “LGBTQIA2S+” branding printed on it.
LGBTQIA2s usually stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two spirit”, although that meaning is not explicitly stated on the Swatch sales page.
This is in line with Swatch’s statement at the time that most of the seized watches did not contain “LGBTQ lettering”.
Swatch for its part has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government on Jun 24, saying that the watches were seized illegally, according to Reuters.
Swatch also said that “Without a doubt, the seized watches did not and are not in any way capable of causing any disruption to public order or morality or any violations of the law”.
The company is seeking the return of the watches, as well as damages.
The seizures came after a complaint on social media about the watches, drawing a link to a concerns about British band Coldplay’s use of the rainbow flag to signal support for LGBTQ causes.
The ban also comes on the heels of blacklisting another British band, The 1975, after it condemned the Malaysian government’s LGBTQ policy live on stage and frontman Matty Healy kissed a fellow band member of the same sex.
The 1975 were banned from Malaysia, and the Good Vibes music festival that hosted them was canceled, after the first day of the three day event, stranding several other bands and fans.
Top image via Swatch