Malaysian Muslims protest against 'sexual independence'
Malaysian Muslims protest against 'sexual independence' Reuters

Gay activists in Malaysia have challenged a government ban on an anti-homophobia arts festival.

The group launched a legal case in a bid to overturn a ban imposed last year on a "sexual independence" festival, which has been held annually in Malaysia since 2008.

The event usually features musical performances and talks about sexuality and related issues.

Authorities prevented the event from taking place after Muslim organisations, along with some of the country's politicians, called it "inappropriate" and risked disrupting public peace.

Festival organisers have hit back, calling the ban unconstitutional and warning that attempts to prevent them from expressing themselves prove discrimination against gays and transsexuals.

The attorney general's office has denied the claims. It insisted the ban was "not amenable for review".

The court hearing is set to take place in February.

News of the case broke after the acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomising a former male aide.

While his acquittal was welcomed, rights organisations such as Amnesty International called for the abolition of laws that criminalise same-sex relations.