GEORGE TOWN: Penang state Gender Inclusiveness Committee chairman Chong Eng says she will look into why the portraits of two lesbian, gay, bixesual and transgender (LGBT) activists were removed from a photography exhibition at the George Town Festival.
It is learned that a Cabinet minister, who has yet to be identified, called a senior officer in the state government and ordered the removal of the two photographs.
The exhibition, Stripes and Strokes, is part of George Town Festival (GTF) 2018 that runs from Aug 4 to Sept 2.
Both activists, Nisha Ayub and Pang Kee Teik, were portrayed holding the Jalur Gemilang in prints captured by photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad.
Chong Eng said she did not know about it and would like to visit the exhibition herself.
She clarified that the state Gender Inclusiveness Committee was focused on the social and economic roles and needs of men and women, and the committee does not concern itself with sexual orientation.
“However, I don’t want to run away from the issue and will look into this.
“It will be ideal if everyone in society values each other based on our abilities and contributions, while people's sexual orientations are simply their personal matter.
“But this is not an ideal world.
“I am told the photographs reflect only patriotism and was not even remotely sensual, but that alone was enough to anger some people,” she told The Star on Wednesday (Aug 8).
Chong Eng said that state must listen to all sides in any issue and she would have to consider the words and feelings of those who felt that the photographs must be removed from the exhibition.
But the exhibition's sponsor, Datuk Vinod Sekhar, would not relent in his criticisms.
“How could this happen in Penang? I expected more from the Penang Government. We should be enlightening people, changing their mindsets – not reacting to people who are closed minded,” he said.
Vinod said he would defend the right of those who did not like the portraits of Nisha and Pang to speak up, but he felt there was no need to bend to their demands.
“Politicians reacted because they are scared of them. Those are cheap politicians, and I thought we were done with them after the general election,” he said.
Nisha was the first transgender woman to receive the International Women of Courage Award in 2016, while Pang is the cofounder of Seksualiti Merdeka.
Meanwhile, Chong Eng also said, “Be careful when selling your ideas. Some people will not accept them because they have made up their minds.
“This is my advice to LGBT activists. As someone who fights for gender equality and women's rights for decades, I have faced so much resistance.“What more will LGBT activists face?” she added.
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