Pressure is mounting on Malaysia’s government to stop the caning of two women arrested for ‘attempted sexual relations’.
Human rights groups condemned the Terengganu Syariah Court’s ruling to sentence two women to six lashes and a RM3,330 (US$814) fine.They judge order the women’s caning for 28 August.
The Syariah Court follows Islamic Sharia Law in which same-sex relations are illegal. They are also illegal in broader Malaysian law.
SUHAKAM is the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia. It said such a ‘punishment is humiliating, demeaning and an attempt to publicly embarrass the women and their families’.
It called on the government to not only abolish corporal punishment in Malaysia but to protect the two women.
But SUHAKAM also warned LGBTI people to ‘keep their lifestyle choices private’.
‘SUHAKAM also calls on LGBT persons to exercise temperance and moderation, as well as to keep their lifestyle choices private, in a society and environment that is only beginning to take into account diversified choices,’ said its chair, Tan Sri Razali Ismail.
‘SUHAKAM understands that this position is less than ideal, but necessary in the religious and cultural context of Malaysia.’
That call comes after intense scrutiny on the LGBTI community in the past couple of weeks. The removal of two portraits of LGBTI people at a photographic exhibition sparked a fierce debate about the community in Malaysia. Some advocates have argued this scrutiny will deteriorate the conditions for LGBTI people even further.
‘Stay out of it’
An Islamic political leader clapped back at SUHAKAM, saying it has no authority to comment on Sharia Law matters.
Takiyuddin Hassan is the secretary-general of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). He said SUHAKAM’s statement was in contempt of the Syariah Court.
‘The punishment is in accordance with shariah laws, and going against it (by Suhakam) would be considered contempt of court,’ Takiyuddin told media today (16 August).
‘These laws can only be enforced on Muslims, not non-Muslims.’
He said SUHAKAM must retract its statement of he will lodge a complaint to the court.