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Sixty-six Muslim schoolboys in Malaysia identified by teachers as effeminate have been sent to a special camp for counselling on masculine behaviour.

They are undergoing four days of religious and physical education.

An education official said the camp was meant to guide the boys back "to a proper path in life".

Gay rights groups have criticised the measure, saying it promotes homophobia in the Muslim-majority country where gay sex is still illegal.

The schoolboys allegedly displayed "feminine mannerisms" - though educators in the conservative state of Terengganu did not detail what they were, says the BBC's Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur.

State officials say that, if left unchecked, the students - aged between 13 and 17 - could end up gay or transsexual.

The state's education director, Razali Daud, said the students were invited to join the camp and were not compelled to do so.

"As educators, we have to do something about it before the young ones misunderstand people and reach the point of no return," he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

Mr Razali says although homosexuals and transvestites exist in Malaysia, the authorities want to limit their number.


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