Muslim court canes Malaysian women for same-sex relationship

05 September, 2018, 03:57 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Malaysia is accused of cracking down on LGBT people in the country as hopes that Mahathir's new government would be more inclusive have stuttered following a series of events that have dismayed the LGBT community and their allies

Two Malaysian Muslim women convicted under Islamic laws of attempting to have sex were caned Monday in a rare public whipping that was slammed by lawmakers and rights activists as a form of torture.

"To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback on the government's efforts to improve its human rights records", said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, the group's Malaysia researcher.

The women, aged 22 and 32, were found guilty of committing musahaqah (sexual relations between women) on Aug 12 by the Terengganu Syariah High Court and ordered to be fined RM3,300 and caned six times each.

Around 100 people witnessed the punishment in the courtroom, including public onlookers, government agencies' representatives, and NGO members.

Sharia law enforcement officers in Terengganu identified the two women attempting to engage in sexual acts in a auto in April. The state's Sharia high court sentenced them August 12 to six strokes of a cane for "sexual relations between women" and fined them the equivalent of about $800.

Asked for Amanah's stand on the public caning of two alleged lesbians in Terengganu over a Shariah offence on Monday, Khalid noted that laws relating to religion in Malaysia are passed in the individual lawmaking bodies in each state.

The women, dressed in white headscarves and clothing, didn't cry or scream but "showed remorse, " he said.

Amnesty International called the caning "a bad day" for human rights.

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The Justice for Sisters activist said the group was concerned the case would set a unsafe precedent for the increased policing of morality and sexual identities in Malaysia.

"This sentence is not meant to hurt but to serve as a lesson", he said, adding that the women had been given a chance to appeal their sentence but they chose not to. "Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention", she said.

He called on the new government to repeal all laws that criminalize homosexuality.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the MP for Rembau, criticised the punishment on his Twitter account, saying: "Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being".

Thilaga Sulathireh, an activist for Malaysia-based human rights' group Justice for Sisters, told the Guardian that the punishment was "shocking and it was a spectacle".

The LGBT community is routinely persecuted in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where they are seen as a threat to conservative values.

"These inconsistencies create confusion in the jurisdiction of the Prison Department thus directly affecting the rights of women in Malaysia protected by Article 8 (2) of the Federal Constitution against gender discrimination", the NGOs said.

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