Sisters in Islam, or SIS, a Malaysian women’s rights organization, has come to the defense of two female students arrested Sept. 1 on suspicion of having same-sex relations in a hotel in Johor Bahru in mainland Malaysia, north of Singapore.
Nine officers from the Johor Islamic Religious Department raided their hotel room, the Sinar Harian newspaper reported. The raid was apparently made on the basis of a citizen’s accusation. BuzzFeed reported:
Reports by the Malaysian newspaper Sinar Harian suggest the two women were swept up in a broad morality raid launched around the Southeast Asian country’s annual celebration of its independence from Great Britain. The police had gone to what news reports identified as a “budget hotel” and arrested seven apparently heterosexual couples in other rooms for violating laws against adultery and “close proximity.”
The charge was an alleged violation of Johor’s syariah (sharia) law against lesbian sex. According to the Rakyat Post of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, SIS legal officer Rashidi Abd Rahim argued that prosecutors must prove that the alleged sex act had actually taken place.
However, the police had no proof that any sex act had occurred, SIS said, but only observed that one of the women was unclothed and that the couple, ages 20 and 21, had purchased a sex toy.
The terms of the law need to be observed, or “otherwise, we will open the flood gates, with people prosecuted based on an accusation,” Rashidi Abd Rahim told The Rakyat Post.
If convicted, the women face potential punishments of three years in jail, six cane strokes, and a fine of RM5,000 (US $1,570).
This article was revised on Sept. 3 to correct the potential punishment that the women face.