Public caning of Malaysian lesbian women blasted as 'atrocious' by rights activists

Marsha Scott
September 5, 2018

Two Malaysian women convicted of attempting lesbian sex in a vehicle have been caned in front of dozens of people, according to media and a state government official, prompting an outcry from human rights activists.

According to campaigners attending the caning, this case was the first time a Malay woman had been caned in relation to Shariah regulations on same-sex relations.

The women, aged 22 and 32, were arrested in April by Islamic enforcement officers after they were found in a vehicle in a public square in northern Terengganu state, one of the country's most conservative areas.

Lesbian sex is illegal for Muslims in Malaysia under Islamic laws, but not for the country's substantial minorities of ethnic Chinese and Indians.

"The power of the court has been enacted in [the] Terengganu state constitution ..."

The two unidentified women were discovered by officials in a parked auto in April and sentenced last month to six strokes of a cane and $800 fines each after pleading guilty.

Under Malaysian civil law caning is banned, but with 60% of Malaysians being Muslim, it is allowed under Islamic laws in some states.

Meanwhile, Terengganu Bar Council chairman Sallehudin Harun, who also represented the Bar Council, said he would prepare a short report on the caning and present it to the council.

Amnesty International said the caning marked "an appalling day" for human rights in Malaysia.

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The punishments came amid the new Malaysian government's rising rhetoric against homosexuality and follows weeks of attacks against members of the LGBT community.

A witness to the caning, Thilaga Sulathireh of the group Justice for Sisters, blasted the punishment as torture.

"Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being".

"Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits corporal punishment against female prisoners of any age". And that mercy is preferable to punishment, " opposition lawmaker Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted.

Linda Lakhdhir, a legal adviser in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, told CNN that the caning demonstrates that the religious right is "flexing their muscles and making clear that the laws against LGBT activity will be enforced in their state".

"Sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalised, let alone punished with whipping".

The caning comes amid a climate of intolerance against LGBT people in Malaysia, human rights activists say.

Malaysia is seen as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority country, but Islamic conservatism is on the rise. Just a week earlier, Malaysia's religious affairs minister ordered the removal of portraits of LGBT activists from an arts festival in Penang, telling reporters, "We do not support the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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