In Brief

Malaysian women caned for ‘attempting lesbian sex’

LGBT groups express dismay as pair given six strokes for violating sharia law

Two women have been caned in a Malaysian courtroom for “attempting to have lesbian sex”.

The pair, aged 22 and 32, “were seated on stools facing the judges and given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers” this morning, the Associated Press reports.

The women, dressed in white gowns and headscarves, apparently remained silent during the lashing, which was carried out in front of several dozen spectators, including members of the public.

Sharia law enforcement officers arrested the two women in a compromising state inside a vehicle in the conservative north-eastern state of Terengganu in April this year, says The Guardian.

On 12 August they were found guilty of “musahaqah”, sexual acts between women, in the Terengganu sharia high court and sentenced to six lashes each, in addition to a 3,300 Malaysian Ringgit (£620) fine.

Under the Malaysian legal system, Muslim citizens are subject both to secular criminal and civil law and to sharia laws governing religious adherence, while the sizable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities have no obligation to obey Islamic law.

The caning “occurred amid a climate of fear and discrimination against Malaysia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community”, says the Associated Press, and drew criticism from LGBT and human rights activists.

In a statement, Amnesty International Malaysia said that people “should not live in fear because they are attracted to people of the same sex” and decried caning as “a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

“The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture,” the group said.

However, the judge who presided over the caning dismissed the idea that it was a harsh or torturous punishment.

“Under syariah [shariah], caning is not meant to hurt or torture the offender,” Judge Kamalruazmi Ismail told the courtroom following the execution of the sentence.

He said that the sentence was “a lesson, a reminder and deterrent to the offenders and society not to commit it in the future”, Malaysian daily newspaper The Star reports.

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