Familiarity with the LGBT community in Malaysia as of 2016

In a survey conducted in Malaysia in 2016, around 36 percent of respondents stated that they personally knew someone from the LGBT community. This contradicts the statement made by Malaysia’s tourism minister in March 2019 that there are no gay people in Malaysia.

The state of LGBT rights in Malaysia

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and its roots go back to Malaysia’s colonial past, when it inherited British laws against sodomy known as Section 377. While India ruled to decriminalize this law in 2018, Malaysian society’s attitudes towards LGBT persons suggests that this is still a long way off. Censorship of movies and books that contain LGBT themes are still commonplace, and a 2016 poll revealed that almost half of all Malaysians do not believe same-sex marriage should be legal.

Religion and its influence on policing sexuality

As a Muslim-majority society, religion, specifically Islam, has had a large influence on politics and societal norms. Many Malaysians believe homosexuality to be incompatible to their religious beliefs. Furthermore, Muslims in Malaysia are governed by a parallel system of Sharia law, and officials from the religious department (JAKIM) are known to conduct moral policing targeting Malay-Muslims caught flouting Islamic norms, such as engaging in ‘homosexual acts’. This adds another layer of persecution faced by the Malaysian LGBT community.

Do you personally know someone who is attracted to people of the same sex or who identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual?

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Release date

October 2016



Survey time period

December 2015 to January 2016

Number of respondents


Method of interview

Online survey

Supplementary notes

The question was phrased by the source as follows: "Do you personally know someone who is attracted to people of the same sex or who identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual?".

The survey fielding approach for this study used RIWI Corp’s (www.riwi.com) patented Random Domain Intercept Technology, which targets random Web users around the world, including remote locations, who are surfing online through an anonymous opt-in survey.

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