Swiss watchmaker Swatch is taking legal action against Malaysia after the government seized its vibrant Pride watches, claiming that the incident has caused significant harm to its reputation.
In a country where homosexuality is considered a crime, Malaysia’s growing intolerance towards the LGBTQ community has been a cause for concern among human rights organizations.
In May, Malaysian authorities confiscated Swatch’s ‘Pride collection’ watches due to the presence of the letters ‘LGBTQ’ on the timepieces, according to the home minister.
Court documents viewed by Reuters reveal that Swatch accused the home ministry of unlawfully seizing 172 watches from 16 outlets. The lawsuit, filed on June 24 at the Kuala Lumpur high court, was initially reported by the Malay Mail, a local news website.
Swatch firmly stated in the lawsuit that the confiscated watches posed no threat to public order, morality, or violated any laws. The company argues that the seizure notices described the watches as promoting LGBTQ rights and potentially breaching Malaysian legislation.
It is important to note that the majority of the confiscated watches, with a combined retail value of 64,795 ringgit ($14,250.05), did not feature the ‘LGBTQ’ lettering, as stated by Swatch.
Seeking both compensation and the return of their watches, Swatch claims that the seizures have severely jeopardized their ability to conduct business in Malaysia.
As of now, the home ministry has not provided any comment in response to the lawsuit.
The Kuala Lumpur high court has scheduled a hearing for this case on July 20.
It is worth mentioning that Malaysia has a history of imprisoning or caning individuals based on their sexual orientation. Just last year, 18 people were detained at a Halloween party attended by members of the LGBTQ community.
This recent incident of seizure and subsequent lawsuit is unfolding ahead of crucial regional elections, pitting Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition against a predominantly conservative, ethnically Malay, Muslim alliance.
Critics have accused Anwar of not doing enough to protect the rights of Muslims in Malaysia, a diverse nation encompassing multiple races and religions.
Anwar himself has faced allegations of sodomy and corruption, for which he vehemently maintains his innocence, labeling them politically motivated.
According to state media, the premier has repeatedly emphasized this month that his government will uphold the principles of Islam. Furthermore, he has firmly stated that his administration will not recognize LGBT rights.
Please note that 1 US dollar equals 4.5470 Malaysian ringgit.