As companies and corporations worldwide prepare to celebrate Pride Month this June, Malaysian authorities crack down on what they perceive as LGBTQIA+ “agenda” by confiscating watches from a popular Swiss company for having elements associated with the LGBTQIA+ community.
Officers from MOHA raided 11 Swatch stores and seized all of the brand's Pride Collection watches.
During the raid, the officers served them with a notice stating that 22 watches had been confiscated because they carried LGBTQ+ symbols.https://t.co/G24ELwT7p0
— SAYS (@saysdotcom) May 22, 2023
The country’s home affairs ministry conducted a massive raid across the country on May 13 and 14, where they entered 11 Swatch stores in several shopping malls, where they took their collection of Pride watches. Around 164 Swatch watches in rainbow colors were confiscated by the authorities.
A summons notice by the Malaysian home affairs ministry for one Swatch outlet was seen by the Agence-France Presse, where the “22 Swatch watches with LGBT elements” inventoried by the shop were seized by authorities.
The notice used the country’s Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 to justify the raid, a law often used to invoke state-sponsored censorship in the South East Asian, Muslim-majority kingdom.
The notice also stated that the collection was violating the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984. According to the Act, brands that sell items that are considered harmful or likely to be harmful to morals may face legal consequences.
— SAYS (@saysdotcom) May 22, 2023
CEO of the Swatch Group, Nick Hayek, released a statement condemning the raid by Malaysian authorities.
“We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful. On the contrary, Swatch always promotes a positive message of joy in life. This is nothing political.” Hayek said.
“We wonder how the home ministry’s enforcement unit will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that show up a thousand times a year in the sky of Malaysia,” the CEO added.
The marketing manager for Swatch Malaysia, Sarah Kok, said she has orders to get the rainbow-themed Swatches back on their displays.
“As per instruction from Switzerland HQ, we will still replenish the stock and display them on shelf,” she said.
Days after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) raided Swatch outlets around Malaysia to seize rainbow-coloured watches from its Pride Collection, the company has said that it will replenish the stock.https://t.co/3bRnagSHG6
— SAYS (@saysdotcom) May 25, 2023
The Swatch controversy came after another incident regarding British rock band Coldplay and their announced tour date for Malaysia. While tickets for their concert in Kuala Lumpur sold out in just a few hours, Muslim politicians in Malaysia condemned the group for having LGBTQIA+ “agenda.”
Almost every international brand is in solidarity with LGBTQ+ groups. If the government insists on eradicating the recognition, then I suggest disconnecting all the business stakeholders that engage with big brands. But be ready to experience bad economy, and job loss.
— Aria (@grandiloquus) May 22, 2023
A Facebook user from Malaysia seems to have anticipated the raid where he posted about throwing away Swatches just two days after authorities seized them.
“No need to wait for Coldplay,” the Malay Facebook user posted. “Whoever wears the Swatch watch can throw it away now!”
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and sodomy is punishable with imprisonment and corporal punishment, although enforcing these punishments is rare. The island nation also uses a dual-track legal system, with Sharia laws operating alongside civil laws.