Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called on the Malaysian authorities halt the caning of two women for having same-sex relations.
The rights group said that authorities should drop the charges against the two women before their scheduled caning on 28 August.
HRW stated that the Malaysian government should prohibit enforcing the law through caning, which the group says constitutes ‘torture under international human rights law’.
‘The scheduled caning of two women is the latest blow to Malaysia’s LGBT community, which had hoped for better protection under the country’s new government,’ said Graeme Reid, director of HRW’s LGBTI rights program.
‘This prosecution and punishment will only fuel the recent wave of homophobia and transphobia in Malaysia,’ Reid said.
This will be the first time the Malaysian state has caned women for same-sex relations.
A Malaysian court convicted the two women of violating the Shariah law of the state of Terengganu earlier this month.
The ruling sentenced each woman to six strokes of the cane and a fine of RM3,300 (about $800).
Homosexuality remains illegal in Malaysia under the British colonial-era statute, Section 377A.
However, Malaysia’s Constitution allows each state to enact laws governing offenses by Muslims against Islamic precepts.
This is another case of ongoing furor over LGBTI rights in Malaysia which has made numerous headlines, both domestically and internationally.
The LGBTI community has been caught in the middle of a war of words between Islamic leaders and rights groups.
The government has been slow to quell the dispute, with officials often releasing confusing or contradictory statements.
Last weekend Malaysian police raided an iconic gay club in Kuala Lumpur for the first time in its 30-year history.
Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said LGBTI people should be tolerated, though their ‘practices’ should be kept behind closed doors. ‘LGBTs have the right to practice whatever [it is] they do in private,’ Wan Azizah said.
LGBTI rights in Malaysia came into the spotlight earlier this month.
On 8 August, a government minister ordered the removal of portraits of two LGBTI activists holding the Malaysian national flag from an art exhibition last month. This caused an outcry from LGBTI rights groups, and largely responsible for sparking the ongoing dispute.