Malaysia makes it illegal to sell, own Swatch LGBT-themed watches

The Malaysian government, on Thursday, criminalized the sale or possession of the rainbow-colored Pride collection watches from Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group that celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement, with offenders facing up to three years in jail.

Homosexuality is a crime in the predominantly Muslim country, and there is a growing intolerance of the LGBT community.

The ban on the watches, signed into force by Home Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution, covers activities including importation, production, sale, and possession.

"The Malaysian government is committed to preventing the spread of elements that could be detrimental to our morals, public and nation's interest," the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Violators of the law face jail time of not more than three years, a maximum fine of 20,000 ringgit ($4,370) or both.

The ban came on the heel of the controversial seizures in May of Swatch Pride watches in several outlets throughout the Southeast Asian country.

This led the Swiss watchmaker to sue the government, seeking the return of the watches and compensation for damages.

On Swatch Malaysia's website, the Pride collection is meant to celebrate "the unity and diversity that make our society -- and Swatch -- so strong."

© Kyodo News