Two Malaysian Muslim women convicted under Islamic laws for attempting to have sexual intercourse have been caned in a rare public whipping.
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.
It was described by human rights activists as a ‘grave miscarriage of justice’.
Lawyers and activists say more than 100 people witnessed the caning in a Sharia court in north-east Terengganu state.
Muslim Lawyers’ Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan said the women, aged 22 and 32, were given six strokes on their backs by female prison officers.
He said the caning was not harsh, and was intended to educate the women in order for them to repent.
Amnesty International Malaysia said: “Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture.
“People should not live in fear because they are attracted to people of the same sex. The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture.”
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Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s population are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues.
Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters who witnessed the caning, said she was shocked by the public spectacle. She said Malaysian laws were inconsistent because civil laws prohibit corporal punishment against female prisoners.
“It’s a regression of human rights in Malaysia. It’s not about the severity of the caning. Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention,” she said.
Malaysia is seen as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority country, but Islamic conservatism is on the rise.
A few weeks ago, authorities removed the portraits of two LGBT+ rights activists from a public exhibition.
Malaysia’s religious minister Mujahid Yusuf later said the government does not support the promotion of LGBT+ culture.