Malaysian Feminist Charged With 'Obscenity' Over Tweet Depicting Vulvas

Malaysian Feminist Charged With 'Obscenity' Over Tweet Depicting Vulvas

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian feminist and activist was charged today with “knowingly making and initiating the transmission of obscene communication, namely pornographic pictures, with the intention of offending others" after she uploaded a collage of vulvas on her Twitter account.

Amira Nur Afiqah Agus Salim, 25, pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur.

She faces a maximum fine of RM 50,000 ($11,500 USD), imprisonment of up to one year or both. She was released on bail and has a new hearing next month.

Salim is currently raising funds through a PayPal account for her legal costs.

The case highlights the concerns of digital rights advocates worldwide, especially in the U.S. and Europe, about what could happen if courts begin enforcing harsh obscenity statutes against any kind of sexual expression, even for educational, activist or editorial purposes.

According to Yahoo News Malaysia, the vulva collage, posted in September 2021, was meant as a commentary regarding an ad campaign by Libresse, a popular feminine care brand in Malaysia. Libresse had launched a line of sanitary products featuring "images of vulvas interpreted into flower motifs on the packaging."

A Feminine Hygiene Ad Campaign Riles Up the Censors

The ad copy read, “At Libresse, we aim to create a world where women can live the life they want by breaking 'V-Zone' taboos, and that begins with knowing and loving the V-Zone. Let’s normalize V-Zone taboos in an open, positive and respectful manner by encouraging women to embrace this beautiful part of their body, together.”

Salim tweeted in response, “Libresse uses flower as representation of vulva instead of this?” and attached the collage, which the authorities consider a violation of the country’s strict obscenity laws.

Religious organizations have also successfully objected to even the stylized, flower-like design that the tweet criticized. The Yadim Muslim Women's Council called the representation a “misuse” of an image of women's private parts and “a dishonor to women.”

Another group, Wardah Media, accused Libresse of “promoting porn,” asking Malaysians to “imagine what a man's imagination would be when he sees the motif on the flowers.”

The Libresse campaign was eventually cancelled due to the uproar.

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