Two Malaysian women caned for lesbian sex amid ‘escalating’ homophobia


malaysia Indonesia's Aceh province caned whipped islam
Woman caned in neighbouring Indonesia. Photo: YouTube

Two women found guilty of attempting to have sex have been caned in Malaysia.

The two women, aged 22 and 32, were arrested in April for attempting to have sex in a car and they were caned six times each on Monday for violating strict Islamic laws in the country’s north-eastern state of Terengganu.

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The caning was carried out in the courtroom and was witnessed by up to 100 people, including members of the public, the Guardian reported.

Thilaga Sulathireh, an activist from the Malaysian rights group Justice for Sisters, told the publication the “shocking” punishment was the first time women have been caned for violating the country’s ban on same-sex intercourse.

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

Human rights group Amnesty International said the caning is “a dreadful reminder of the depth of discrimination LGBTI people face in the country.”

At the time, the judge who sentenced the women said the punishment was necessary to deter other members of society.

“[This] adequate punishment must be meted out so that this becomes a lesson and reminder to not just the two of you, but the members of society,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Same-sex intercourse is outlawed in Malaysia, but the ban is rarely enforced, though caning is a legal form of corporal punishment in the country. As many as 10,000 people are caned every year, human rights groups estimate.

At the time of the women’s arrest, a collective of local groups condemned the sentence as a violation of the women’s human rights and warned of escalating homophobia in the country.

“We are also extremely concerned about the escalating attacks and repression against LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia, and the impact of such punishment in this environment,” they said in a statement.

“Such punishment will further fuel hatred, discrimination and violence towards LGBTIQ persons with impunity.”

In recent months in Malaysia, 20 men were arrested during a raid on a gay venue and ordered into counselling for “illicit behaviour”, a transgender woman was brutally beaten on a Malaysian street and the Penang government’s religious affairs minister ordered the removal of photographs of LGBTIQ activists from a state-sponsored exhibition in a bid to stop “the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia.”

Last week Greens LBGTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said Australia is a leader in the Asia Pacific region with strong trade links with Malaysia. Rice said action was needed in light of Malaysia’s “chilling” state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTIQ people.

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(Photo: Woman caned in neighbouring Indonesia, via YouTube)