Malaysia | Two women caned for attempted lesbian sex


A public caning in Indonesia

The authorities in Malaysia have carried out a sentence of public caning against two women convicted of attempting to have consensual sex.

According to reports, the women, aged 22 and 32, were seated on stools as they each received six strokes in a courtroom while 100 people watched on. The women were arrested in the state of Terengganu after they were caught attempting to have sex in a car.

The caning was delivered individually by a female prison officer on Monday in front of the judge who sentenced them, as well as family members. The women were brought in and out the court through a private entrance.

It’s believed that it is the first time that women have been caned for same-sex sexuality in the state. In addition to their corporal punishment, the women were also ordered to each pay a fine of RM3,300 (R11,500 / US$800).

The Muslim Lawyers Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan told Malay Mail that the caning was not meant to cause pain but was intended to be symbolic. “Humiliation is out of the question, to hurt the person is out of the question,” he said, adding: “It is to educate the person.”

Human Rights groups, however, responded with condemnation. “This is a terrible day for LGBTI rights, and indeed human rights, in Malaysia,” commented Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher.

“To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback in the government’s efforts to improve its human rights record.”

Chhoa-Howard added: “The caning of the two women is a dreadful reminder of the depth of discrimination and criminalisation that LGBTI people face in the country. It’s a sign that the new government condones the use of measures that amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, much like its predecessor.”

Malaysia operates under two law systems; federal secular laws and state-based Sharia (Islamic moral / religious) laws, under which the women were convicted last month.

Homosexuality remains a social taboo and is also punishable with penalties of up to 20 years in jail under colonial era criminalisation. The latest case comes as the government’s position on the rights of LGBT people is under intense scrutiny.

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, recently warned LGBT people to keep their identity out of the public eye and to not “glamourise” their lives. Last month, officers from various law enforcement agencies raided the popular Blue Boy gay club in Kuala Lumpur in order to “mitigate the LGBT culture from spreading into our society.”

“People should not live in fear because of who they are and who they love,” said Chhoa-Howard. “The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments, and ratify the UN Convention against Torture.”

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