Malaysia has removed homosexuality and transgenderism "prevention" category from a video contest following criticism by activists.

Explaining the move, Malaysia's health ministry said that the contest was creating hatred and violence against Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) people. Officials have now swapped the "gender identity disorder" section with one on gender and sexuality, the BBC reported.

Deputy Director-General of Health Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the step was taken following a meeting between ministry officials, the Malaysian Aids Council, experts and representatives from "key population groups".

"This meeting successfully cleared the misunderstandings and collectively improvements were made to the competition guideline," Sulaiman told Reuters.

Sulaiman had earlier defended the category saying it was chosen because there was an increase in sexual and reproductive health problems among teens, including higher rates of sexual activity and a rise in HIV transmission.

He had added that the idea behind the contest was "not to single out or to discriminate" against the LGBT community, but to discover and identify gaps in health services.

Activists and the LGBT community have welcomed this decision by the government. Transgender activist Nisha Ayub said: "We have to create a safe space for discussions and raise awareness. I hope this kind of engagement with officials will continue at other government agencies."

What is the contest about?

Earlier in June, the government of Malaysia launched the contest for youth between the ages of 13 and 24 years, where participants were required to send video clips on topics such as sexual health, sex and the internet, and "gender identity disorder".

The authorities offered cash prizes of up to $1,000 (£780) for the winners of the best videos that explained homosexuality, "gender confusion", and how these can be "prevented or controlled".

The video contest was scheduled to close at the end of August. But, the competition has upset activists, who believe that the videos will escalate hatred and violence against the LGBT community.

Homosexuality is a highly controversial subject in Malaysia. Those found to engage in gay sex can be sentenced to 20 years in prison, caning or a fine.

In 2012, the Muslim-majority nation also released guidelines to help spot the early signs of homosexuality. It suggested that boys who feel inclined towards homosexuality will start wearing tight, V-neck shirts, while girls will prefer to hang out and sleep in the company of other women.

Gay Pride rainbow flag
The government has taken the step following an outcry among activists - Representational image Reuters