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FACTBOX: Sodomy laws in Malaysia and elsewhere

(Reuters) - Police investigating a sodomy allegation against Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim warned on Thursday they could compel him to give a DNA sample, threatening to further stoke tensions in the highly charged case.

De facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and later jailed for corruption and sodomy. The supreme court overturned the sodomy conviction six years later.

He has said the charges are a political ploy aimed at destroying Malaysia’s resurgent opposition.

Here are some facts on sodomy laws in Malaysia and elsewhere.

* Malaysia is one of half a dozen former British colonies to retain colonial-era “anti-sodomy” laws. Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalizes gay sex.

* The mainly Muslim nation’s sodomy laws were introduced in the late 1870s by British administrators, about 20 years after the first such law was drafted by Lord Thomas Macaulay for the Indian Penal Code.

* Anyone who “voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” can be jailed for 20 years and/or caned and fined under Section 377. Section 377A, interpreted as outlawing gay sex, specifies up to two years jail.

* Similar sodomy laws were adopted by other colonies, such as Australia, Bangladesh (then part of British India), Canada, Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements (now Singapore), Pakistan (then part of British India) and Sri Lanka.

* Australia, Canada, Fiji and Hong Kong, have all repealed the laws. The UK legalized sexual acts between two adult males in 1967. Indian activists are currently challenging Section 377 in court.

* Activists argue the laws violate various rights to equality, non-discrimination and freedom of speech, and make the fight against HIV/AIDS more difficult as they drive gay sex underground.

* Malaysia’s neighbor Singapore repealed Section 377 in 2007. But retained Section 377A, which specifies a 2-year jail term, as its Prime Minister concluded Singapore was still a conservative country uncomfortable with homosexuality.

* Homosexual acts remain punishable by death in several countries, including Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Source: Reuters

Writing by Gillian Murdoch, Beijing Editorial Reference Unit