2 Women Caned Over Same-Sex Relations In Malaysia

“The punishment was shocking and it was a spectacle. For all intents and purposes it was a public caning.”


In the first punishment of its kind, two women in Malaysia were caned after attempting to have sex.

The corporal act has been deemed a setback for the country, whose LGBTQ community expected to have better protection under the new government.

The 22 and 32-year-old women were each caned six times in the sharia court of the conservative north-eastern state of Terengganu.

Malaysian women have been caned previously for acts such adultery, however, this is the first time gay women have been targeted for attempting to ensue sexual relations.

Although the punishment was carried out in a courtroom, it was essentially a public caning, with more than 100 people as witness.

Thilaga Sulathireh, an activist from the Malaysian rights group Justice for Sisters, who was in court on Monday, told the Guardian, “The punishment was shocking and it was a spectacle. For all intents and purposes it was a public caning.”

“This case shows a regression for human rights,” she added. “Not only for LGBT people but all persons because corporal punishment affects all people.”

Sulathireh also added her rights group was worried the caning would set an example for how the LGBTQ community in the country is to be treated.

This particular case first came to light in April, after Terengganu’s sharia law enforcement officers identified the two women attempting to have sex in a car. They were then charged on Aug. 12 after pleading guilty to attempting to have a sexual relationship.

They were each ordered to be caned and pay a fine of 3,300 Malaysian Ringgits ($796).

Human rights activists had urged the Malaysian government not to go through with caning, citing it could equate to torture under international human rights law — all to no avail.

“This prosecution and punishment,” Graeme Reid, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender program at Human Rights Watch, said in an Aug. 21 statement, “will only fuel the recent wave of homophobia and transphobia in Malaysia.”

The caning resulted in a widespread outcry, over Malaysian laws that criminalize homosexuality. A few Malaysian MPs also called for abolishing all such laws and preached of inclusion for all.

Charles Santiago, a parliamentary member from the Malaysian state of Selangor, took to Twitter to express his anger over the incident in a series of tweets.






Khairy Jamaluddin, the MP for Rembau, took a similar stance, condemning the public shaming of the two women, “Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being. Mercy is preferable to punishment.”

Hannah Yeoh, a member of parliament for Segambut, also took to Twitter to rebuke corporal punishment.



Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images

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