KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government said Thursday that all Swatch products that contain lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer elements — including watches, wrappers and boxes — were banned, warning that anyone found with one could be jailed for up to three years.
The ban has been published in the Federal Gazette — which makes it official — as part of a printing law that includes distribution and possession, citing concerns that such products were detrimental to the nation’s morality.
Malaysia, which is predominantly Muslim, already criminalizes same-sex relationships, with punishments ranging from caning under Islamic laws to 20 years in prison for sodomy under colonial-era civil laws.
In May, authorities raided Swatch stores and confiscated more than 160 watches from its Pride Collection. Some of the watches have rainbow colors while others are in a choice of six single colors that correlate to the gay pride flag, with two rainbow loops on their straps.
Swatch contested allegations that the watches were harmful, saying they carried a message of peace and love. The Swiss watchmaking company has sued the government for damages and for the return of the watches.
The Home Ministry statement said the products are “detrimental, or possibly detrimental, to morality, public interest and national interest by promoting, supporting and normalising the LGBTQ movement which is not accepted by the general public.”
Anyone found in possession of such Swatch products face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 20,000 ringgit ($4,375), it warned.
In July, the government cut short a music festival in Kuala Lumpur after the lead singer of British band The 1975 kissed a male bandmate during their performance in protest of the country’s anti-gay laws. Footage of the kiss was posted on social media and sparked a backlash in the country. Malaysia also blacklisted the group from the country. The band later canceled its shows in Jakarta and Taipei.