1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Malaysian authorities seize rainbow Swatch watches

May 24, 2023

The watches belong to the company's "Pride collection" which celebrates LGBT equality and diversity. The incident is the latest crackdown in a country where homosexuality is criminalized.

The sign on a Swatch store
Authorities confiscated more than 160 watches from various Swatch stores in MalaysiaImage: ingimage/IMAGO

Authorities in Malaysia have seized 164 rainbow-colored Swatch watches that celebrate LGBT pride, the company said on Wednesday.

Officials from the Ministry of Interior Affairs raided Swatch outlets in various malls to confiscate merchandise which bore "LGBT elements," according to one summons notice.

The watches belong to the watchmaker's "Pride collection" which it says promotes equality and diversity.

"We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colors and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever," Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr. said in a statement.

"This is nothing political. We wonder how the Regulatory and Enforcement Division of the Home Ministry will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that are showing up a thousand times a year in the sky of Malaysia," he added.

Swatch's marketing manager in Malaysia, Sarah Kok, said stock of the rainbow watches would be replenished and displayed on-shelf.

LGBT rights in Malaysia

Homosexuality is criminalized in Malaysia, and authorities in the majority-Muslim country regularly crack down on LGBT symbols and events.

The country has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic laws applicable to Muslims in certain cases alongside civil laws for other crimes, as well as for members of the country's sizable Chinese and Indian communities.

Local gay rights group Jejaka slammed the confiscation of the rainbow watches, saying it showed "a deeply unsettling level of intolerance."

"It is more than a matter of colorful watches. It's about respect for diversity, freedom of expression, and, most importantly, love," the organization said in a statement.

Pride apparel targeted elsewhere

The news comes as US department store Target announced on Tuesday that it had removed some Pride Month apparel from its shelves due to intense backlash from customers, including violent confrontations with workers.

It also relocated remaining LGBT-themed items to the back of the store in some southern states.

"Since introducing this year's collection, we've experienced threats impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being while at work," the company said in a statement.

"Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior."

zc/nm (AP, AFP, Reuters)