Swatch sues Malaysia over seizure of LGBTQ pride watches

Swiss watchmaker says in lawsuit watches ‘not in any way capable of causing any disruption to public order or morality’.

Swiss watchmaker has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government over the seizure of watches linked to LGBTQ pride [File: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Swatch has sued the Malaysian government over authorities’ seizure of watches celebrating LGBTQ pride.

In a lawsuit filed with the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, the Swiss watchmaker is seeking compensation and the return of 172 watches seized by officials over their alleged “LGBT elements”.

Swatch said in the filing that the seizure of the watches, valued at 64,795 ringgit ($14,232), had no legal basis as well as including items that had no connection to LGBTQ activism.

“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,” Swatch said in the lawsuit, which was filed on June 24 and first reported by the Malay Mail.

Malaysia’s home affairs ministry seized the watches, some of which featured the rainbow colours associated with LGBTQ pride, during raids at a number of shopping malls across the country in May.

Swatch Group Chief Executive Nick Hayek at the time questioned how “peace and love could be harmful” and whether authorities would try to confiscate rainbows in the sky if it was possible.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Swatch did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Malaysia, which is about 60 percent Muslim, criminalises sexual activity between members of the same sex, imposing penalties that include caning and imprisonment.

Rights groups have expressed concern about growing intolerance of sexual minorities in the Southeast Asian country, which has a dual legal system that prohibits the Malay-Muslim majority from engaging in sexual or gender expression that goes against Islamic teachings.

In May, two members of parliament from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), the largest party in parliament, said that LGBTQ people should be classified as suffering from a mental illness.

Last year, Islamic police arrested 20 Muslims at an LGBTQ-friendly Halloween party for a number of offences including cross-dressing and indecent acts in public.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies