Swiss watchmaker, Swatch, files lawsuit against Malaysia for seizure of Pride watches
Swatch Group (SIX:UHR), the renowned Swiss watchmaker, has taken legal action against the Malaysian government for confiscating watches from its ‘Pride collection,’ which celebrates LGBT rights. The company claims that this act has caused significant damage to its reputation.
Malaysia, a country with a Muslim majority, considers homosexuality a criminal offense, and there has been a rise in intolerance towards the LGBTQ community, as highlighted by human rights organizations.
According to the home minister, the Malaysian authorities seized the watches in May due to the presence of the letters ‘LGBTQ’ on them. Swatch revealed in court documents seen by Reuters that 172 watches were unlawfully confiscated from 16 outlets.
The lawsuit was filed on June 24 at the Kuala Lumpur high court and was initially reported by the Malay Mail, a Malaysian news website.
Swatch stated in the lawsuit that the confiscated watches pose no threat to public order, morality, or any violation of the law. The company also highlighted that the seizure notices claimed the watches had elements of or promoted LGBTQ rights, potentially violating Malaysian law. However, most of the seized watches did not bear the ‘LGBTQ’ lettering, according to Swatch.
The Swiss watchmaker is seeking damages and the return of the watches, as the seizures have significantly endangered its ability to conduct business in the country.
On Monday, Swatch Group stated that it does not comment on ongoing legal cases, while the Malaysian home ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is scheduled to be heard at the Kuala Lumpur high court on July 20.
It is worth noting that Malaysia has a history of imprisoning or caning individuals for engaging in homosexuality. In recent years, incidents like the detention of 18 people at a Halloween party attended by members of the LGBT community have raised concerns.
The confiscation of the watches and the subsequent legal action coincide with upcoming regional elections, where Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition will face off against a predominantly conservative ethnic-Malay, Muslim alliance.
Critics have accused Anwar of not doing enough to protect the rights of Muslims in Malaysia, a diverse and multi-faith nation. Anwar himself has faced allegations of sodomy and corruption, which he denies and claims were politically motivated.
State media reported that the prime minister has reiterated his government’s commitment to upholding Islamic principles. He has also stated that his administration will not recognize LGBT rights.