The caning of two women for ‘attempted sexual relations’ in Malaysia may have started a worrying trend in the country.
On Monday (3 September) a court official caned the 22 and 32 year old women six times each. An Islamic Sharia court in the state of Terengganu had found them guilty of same-sex relations.
Their caning caused international uproar with human rights groups condemning the punishment as ‘torture’.
It was the first time caning was used as a sentence for same-sex relations in Malaysia. The Sharia court handed out the highest sentence possible within its jurisdiction to the women.
We want to lead LGBTI people on to the ‘right path’
But now the peninsular state of Pahang wants to follow in Terengganu’s footsteps and start caning LGBTI people.
The Pahang Islamic Religious Department (JAIP) is considering updating its laws to introduce caning as punishment for LGBTI people.
‘We support (the caning sentence) as it shows the beauty of Islam but in Pahang, we have not decided yet and will look into it,’ JAIP director Datuk Mohamad Noor Abdul Rani told media.
Rani said the JAIP will run ‘education’ programs to lead LGBTI people back on to the ‘right path’. These programs would happen while Pahang considers whether to introduce caning.
‘To date, we have signboards reminding people to stay away from committing vice and now we will put up the LGBT boards as part of the measures to tackle the problem,’ he said.
‘We will one day reach the stage of implementing (punishment), so educating the people will be continuously carried out as a reminder to the community to stop their acts which will only incur the wrath and anger of Allah.’
‘We want to give them awareness and at the same time also support the sentencing carried out through the Islamic law as we want to educate the young generation on LGBT.’
Syariah law in Malaysia
Malaysia’s Syariah Court – Syariah is the Malay spelling of Shariah – is one of two separate court systems in Malaysia. It has jurisdiction over all Muslims in Malaysia but only in matters of family law and religious observance. About 61% of Malaysia’s 32 million strong population is Muslim.
Syariah Courts have limited scope in the sentences it can hand out. They can pass sentences of jail terms up to three years, fines up to RM5,000 (US$1,206), and/or up to six cane lashes.
Pahang state official, Datuk Seri Shahaniza Shamsuddin said the state’s punishment of LGBTI people should not be cruel.
‘One of the reasons why no such action or punishment has been carried out on LGBT activities is that it is quite difficult for us to prove the offence. The offence is normally done in private,’ she told The Star.
‘It is difficult for us to prove it took place and so far, we have only taken action under the Syariah law for the consumption of alcohol,’ she said.