Two Malaysian women caned under Islamic law for lesbian sex

Two Malaysian women were caned Monday for having lesbian sex in violation of strict Islamic laws, despite an outcry from activists at the "cruel and unjust" punishment.

Human rights groups said it was the first time women have been caned in Malaysia for engaging in homosexual relations.

The two, aged 22 and 32, were each given six strokes of the cane in an Islamic law court in the conservative state of Terengganu, which is governed by the Pan-Malaysian Islamist Party.

The women, dressed in white headscarves and clothing, didn't cry or scream but "showed remorse", said Muslim Lawyers' Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan.

Charles Santiago, a parliamentary member from the Malaysian state of Selangor, expressed his outrage in a series of tweets after the punishment was carried out in the Terengganu court on Monday morning.

The two women were fined by the sharia high court on 12 August, after they pleaded guilty to committing musahaqah, or sexual relations between women.

Unlike caning under civil laws, the punishment used under Islamic laws isn't meant to serve as a lesson rather than being painful or harsh, according to Sinwan.

"Sharia criminal procedure allows the court to determine where the sentence will be carried out, and requires that it must be witnessed by a number of other Muslims", said Mr Satiful, who attended the hearing.

"This is a awful day for LGBTI rights, and indeed human rights, in Malaysia", Amnesty International's Malaysia Researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said in a statement.

He said the caning of the women has its origins in the "skewed and narrow interpretation of religious laws".

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.

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".

However, he also told parliament that the government is concerned about the "spread of the LGBT lifestyle", and has reportedly spoken about camps and seminars for LGBT people, according to Human Rights Watch.

Malaysia's religious minister Mujahid Yusuf later said the government does not support the promotion of LGBT+ culture.

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

Malaysia is seen as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority country, but Islamic conservatism is on the rise.

The caning occurred amid a climate of fear and discrimination against Malaysia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. During a public exhibition, he ordered that pictures of LGBTQ activists be removed, and has been vocal against the gay community.


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