A Malaysian newspaper has sparked outrage by publishing a checklist with tips on how to recognise gay and lesbian people.

The article in Sinar Harian newspaper included a list of supposedly distinctive LGBT qualities.

It claimed that gay men enjoy having beards and going to the gym to check out other men. The article said that gay men's eyes light up when they see handsome men, The Guardian reported.

Lesbians are easily recognisable because they tend to hug each other, hold hands and belittle men, according to the Sinar Harian article.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Malaysia is one of the only countries worldwide where people can be prosecuted for adopting a different gender identity than the one assigned to them at birth.

Human rights activists have called on Malaysian media to adopt a softer rhetoric when reporting on LGBT issues following several recent killings of suspected transgender and gay people.

Last year, 18-year-old student T Nhaveen was beaten and burned to death by his classmates who called him a "pondan", a colloquial term for a gay man. A few months later, a transgender woman, Sameera Krishnan, was murdered at a florist shop. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was a targeted attack.

The Malaysian government has adopted a hardline stance when addressing LGBT issues in recent years. The country's deputy interior minister attacked the movie Beauty and the Beast last year for featuring a scene in which two men dance together. Disney refused to cut the scene and the uncensored film was released at a later date in Malaysia.

Activists and celebrities condemned the article in Sinar Harian on social media. Arwind Kumar, one of the country's biggest social media stars, said the article could "take away lives".

"There are much more important issues in this country which need to be addressed," he said in a video on YouTube.

"If you really want to educate society then explain to them the traits of a paedophile, a molester, a murderer, a kidnapper, people who actually endanger the lives of others. How the hell does a gay person endanger your life?" Kumar added.

In his video, he mocked Sinar Harian for typecasting gay men as "beard lovers".

"I know a lot of priests, I know a lot ustads[Islamic scholars], I know a lot of of really really religious people who love keeping beards. Are you trying to say they are gay? That's how stupid this is," he said.