Malaysian sharia court canes two women for attempting to have sex

Two Malaysian Muslim women convicted under Islamic laws for attempting to have sex were caned on Monday, Reuters quoted government officials as saying.

While women in Malaysia have been caned for sexual offences in the past, such as adultery, rights activists say this is the first time two women have been caned for attempting to have sex.

The couple, aged 22 and 32, were given six strokes of a light rattan cane on their backs on Monday by female prison officers at the Sharia High Court in northeast Terengganu state, a Muslim lawyer said.

That two women were caned while "100 people gawked at them" in the public gallery of the court was shocking and humiliating, he said.

The two unidentified women were discovered by officials in April and sentenced last month by a Sharia court to six strokes of a cane and a fine after pleading guilty.

The punishment, which is banned under civil law in Malaysia, is allowed under Islamic law in the country's dual-track legal system.

They were caned at the Sharia High Court in the state capital Kuala Terengganu.

The sentence was handed down last month after the women, who are 32 and 22, pleaded guilty to having sex in a auto.

Under Malaysian civil law the caning of women is prohibited, but it is permitted under Islamic law in some states that have adopted concurrent sharia laws.

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

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.

Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters, who witnessed the ordeal, was concerned about the safety, privacy, harassment, humiliation and trauma of the women.

A spokesperson from the transgender rights group, Justice for Sisters, believed the caning would "increase the impunity of perpetrators to carry out acts of violence" against gay people. It's not about the severity of the caning. And that mercy is preferable to punishment, " opposition lawmaker Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted. "Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention", she said.

It reads: "Homosexual acts are illegal in Malaysia and punishable under federal law, and in some states, shari'a law". "We really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned. due to their sexuality", he said.

The country, whose population is around 60 percent Muslim, has seen a recent rise in Islamic conservativism, with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia regularly subjected to discrimination and hostility.

Human rights and LGBT activists blasted the public whipping as a form of torture.

  • Jon Douglas