Two Malaysian women caned for lesbian sex

Malaysia: Two women caned for ‘attempting lesbian sex’

PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim criticised the caning of two women convicted of attempting "lesbian sex" in Terengganu during his visit to the Philippines on Tuesday.

Two women were caned in front of an audience in a Malaysian court for trying to have sex, spurring condemnation from human rights groups and calls to abolish corporal punishment in the predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian country.

The two unnamed women, ages 22 and 32, were arrested in April after Islamic enforcement officers spotted them in a auto together in northeast Terengganu state, according to Agence France-Presse.

Around 100 people witnessed the punishment in the courtroom, including public onlookers, government agencies' representatives, and NGO members.

Abdul Rahim Sinwan, deputy president of the Muslim Lawyers' Association, said the caning was "not harsh" and was meant to educate the women in order for them to repent. They pled guilty to committing "musahaqah", meaning sexual relations between women, in August and were sentenced to six lashings and a 3,300 Malaysian Ringgit (US$799) fine.

Court official Wan Abdul Malik Wan Sidek defended the punishment, saying it was not as tough as caning carried out for numerous crimes under Malaysia's civil law.

"They (the two Muslim women) are the ones who don't uphold their dignity YB".

"This is a awful day for LGBTI rights, and indeed human rights, in Malaysia", Amnesty International's Malaysia Researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said in a statement.

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The Justice for Sisters activist said the group was concerned the case would set a risky precedent for the increased policing of morality and sexual identities in Malaysia.

Earlier, two women's rights groups slammed the Kuala Terengganu Shariah High Court for publicly caning the women today, describing the punishment as "a travesty and a grave miscarriage of justice".

"This case shows a regression for human rights", Sulathireh said. It's not about the severity of the caning.

"Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits corporal punishment against female prisoners of any age".

Lawmaker Charles Santiago said the government must repeal all laws that criminalize homosexuality.

"And this is because we really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned let alone due to their sexuality", he said.

Malaysian Muslims have traditionally practised a tolerant brand of Islam but concerns have been growing in recent years that attitudes are becoming more conservative.

The Islamic affairs minister has spoken out against homosexuals and ordered pictures of LGBT activists to be removed from a public exhibition, while a transgender woman was brutally attacked in the southern state of Negeri Sembilan.

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