PETALING JAYA: Democracy allows everyone, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, to express their views and concerns in a peaceful manner, says the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0).
The election watchdog was responding to comments by Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who had criticised the International Women's Day March on Saturday (March 9) for defending LGBT rights.
The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of Islamic religious affairs had said the defending of LGBT rights during the rally was an abuse of democracy, adding that the government would never accept such practices in the country.
"Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind Dr Mujahid that democracy is about allowing all quarters to express their views and concerns in a peaceful way, including gathering peacefully.
"By Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, every citizen has a right to freedom of speech, expression, peaceful assembly and form associations.
"One need not agree with all the views expressed or issues championed but one should seek to listen and understand even if after doing so, one disagrees.
"As a minister of a democratic government, Dr Mujahid should not restrict or condemn any groups that wish to highlight their concerns," it said in a statement on Sunday (March 10).
Bersih pointed out that it supported equality, non-discrimination and the freedom enshrined by the Federal Constitution for all to express themselves.
"Since May 9, we have witnessed the anti-Icerd, 'Melayu bangkit', 'defend Prophet Muhammad' and other gatherings. We commend the Pakatan Harapan government for allowing and facilitating such gatherings without intimidation," it said.
Bersih expressed concern that Dr Mujahid as well as other parties who had spoken out against the LGBT community would "encourage further hate and discrimination" against the group.
"Every person has a right to protection from violence and discrimination under the law. To demand for such protection is different from promoting a certain lifestyle, sexual orientation or ideology," it said.
Among the demands listed down by the Women's March were the elimination of gender discrimination, an end to violence against women, the strengthening of women's rights, and a push for equal opportunities and wages.
Bersih also criticised Dr Mujahid for stating that the organisers of the rally would be investigated under Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012 as it did not have a permit to hold the rally.
"We wish to remind the minister that Pakatan has promised to abolish draconian provisions in the PAA and Penal Code on peaceful assembly.
"The constitutionality of Section 9 is surely in question and should not be used against peaceful demonstrators," it said.
The Women's March on Saturday had drawn criticism as pro-LBGT chants were heard as well as a few activists seen carrying "rainbow" flags.