An Islamic sharia court in Malaysia is proceeding with plans to punish two women for lesbian activity by hitting them six times each with a rattan cane.
About 61 percent of Malaysia’s citizens are Muslim. As such, they are under the jurisdiction of Islamic courts, which irule on family, marriage and personal issues.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have urged the sharia court in the Malaysian state of Terengganu to abandon the planned punishments because caning is a form of torture.
Amnesty urged Malaysia to “end the use of caning and repeal the laws that impose these torturous punishments completely.” …
The international rights group also said the court’s decision occurred amid growing concern of a climate of fear and discrimination against people in Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.
It said 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 doesn’t support the promotion of LGBT culture in the country. A transgender woman was also beaten up by a group of people in a southern state this month.
These are excerpts from the HRW statement:
Caning as punishment for a criminal offense is a form of torture. It’s also as an affront to human dignity. The Sharia court judge who sentenced the two women told them they were being made examples of as a lesson for all society.
Malaysia’s criminal law broadly polices people’s bodies and desires. The federal penal code criminalizes undefined “gross indecency” and “[c]arnal intercourse against the order of nature,” which is defined as penile-anal or penile-oral sex and can be punished by 20 years in prison and, like many offenses in Malaysia, by caning.
Malaysia’s 13 states and its federal territory also outlaw same-sex sexual relations under state Sharia (syariah, or Islamic law) ordinances, which apply only to Muslims and are enforced by state religious departments. In Terengganu, liwat (sodomy) and musahaqah (sex between women) can result in up to three years in prison, fines, and up to six strokes with a cane.
The laws are rarely enforced, according to Malaysian activists. By one count, the federal anti-sodomy law had been used seven times since 1938 – on four occasions against Anwar Ibrahim, who is now the ruling party’s president, but then was an opposition figure. Ibrahim has not spoken out against the scheduled caning.
Criminalizing adult consensual same-sex conduct violates internationally protected rights to privacy and non-discrimination. Caning violates customary international law prohibitions on the use of torture and other ill-treatment.
The government should act now. It should ratify the Convention against Torture, ban caning, and rescind its anti-homosexuality laws. Also, the Terengganu authorities should reverse the conviction of the two women. No one in Malaysia should be subjected to the inhumane and degrading punishment of caning, or any other punishment, for their consensual sexual behavior.
- Malaysia: Plea to stop Aug. 28 caning for same-sex love (
- Caning of Malaysian lesbians will fuel ‘recent wave of homophobia (August 2018, NBCNews.com)
- Good news for No. 1 victim of Malaysia’s sodomy law (
- Plea to Malaysia: Drop anti-gay law, political prosecution (
- Malaysia official: Constitution does not protect LGBTs (June
- Pro-LGBT protests fizzle; anti-LGBT rally screams (
- Archive of this blog’s articles about Malaysia