The ‘conversion therapy’ app said it could help LGBTQ+ people “return to nature”.
The ‘Hijrah Diri – Homoseksualiti’ app, which is produced by the Malaysian government, has now been removed from the Google Play store after it was found to be in breach of the platform’s guidelines.
The app was originally released in July 2016, but attracted renewed attention on social media this month after it was shared to Twitter (9 March) by JAKIM, the Malaysian government’s Islamic development department.
“Hijrah Diri is an application of JAKIM’s initiative with Yayasan Ihtimam Malaysia to help the LGBT community return to nature,” they wrote on Twitter.
“Currently only available in the Google Play Store.”
In a later tweet, the federal government agency elaborated, saying that it “contains an eBook that refers to the true experience of a gay man who migrated during Ramadan to abandon homosexual behaviour.”
The app has now been removed from the Play store following a social media backlash to its government endorsement, with Google telling The Guardian: “Whenever an app is flagged to us, we investigate against our Play store policies and if violations are found we take appropriate action to maintain a trusted experience for all.”
Google’s guidelines ban apps “that attempt to deceive users or enable dishonest behavior including but not limited to apps which are determined to be functionally impossible.”
The practice of conversion therapy can take various forms but often refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity, using psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions. It is based on the assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’.
These therapies are widely considered ineffective, unethical and harmful for anyone who undergoes the process.
LGBTQ+ people in Malaysia already face large-scale discrimination, including laws that ban same-sex relations and non-normative gender expression.