Malaysian Islamic Court Canes Two Women for Alleged Lesbian Sex Attempt

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Two women in Malaysia were publicly caned in a religious court on Monday after they were found guilty of attempted sex with each other in a car.

The women, aged 22 and 23, were convicted of “sexual relations between women” and sentenced to a public caning and a fine equivalent of around $800.

On Monday, the pair were each caned six times at the Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu in front of a crowd of over 100 people that included family members, the state’s first-ever conviction and punishment for such a crime. According to Muslim Lawyers’ Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan, a group that pushes such legislation, the two women “showed remorse” for their crime.

“Repentance is the ultimate aim for their sin,” Sinwan said.

Human rights groups immediately criticized the punishment, raising concerns about Malaysia’s record on LGBT rights. The country’s laws are increasingly being shaped by Islamic teachings. Currently, same-sex relations are a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

“This is a terrible day for LGBTI rights, and indeed human rights, in Malaysia,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard of Amnesty International. “To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback in the government’s efforts to improve its human rights record.”

Amnesty also noted that caning amounts to a form of torture under international law and Malaysia remains one of the few countries that has refused to ratify the international Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

This month, the Malaysian government’s religious affairs minister, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, ordered the removal of two portraits of LGBT activists at an art exhibition. The portraits, displayed at the annual George Town Festival showed a transgender woman called Nisha and a gay man named Pang draping a Malaysian flag over their shoulders.

“I was informed of the exhibition that showcased their pictures, along with the rainbow pride flag, in a public gallery,” he said at the time. “I contacted the state government to check if the claim is true, and I have consistently repeated in Parliament that we do not support the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia.”

In February, a prominent Malaysian newspaper published an article educating readers on how to allegedly spot a homosexual, causing widespread anger among LGBT activists. The advice, published in the Sinar Harian, featured descriptions of characteristics that homosexual men supposedly share, including a tendency to have beards, regularly going to the gym to check out other men, and wearing branded clothing.

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