A local judge has given two women to six lashes of a cane for ‘attempted sexual relations’ in Malaysia.
Police arrested the women aged 32 and 22 in April for trying to have sex in a car. They were arrested in the state of Terengganu in the north-west of the country. Police accused the women of being lesbians, who allegedly said they felt ‘safer’ having sex with women rather than men. Police also allegedly found a dildo under one of the car seats.
Judge Kamalruazmi Ismail said he gave the women the harsh sentence to also deter other members of society. Along with the lashing, the judge also ordered the women to pay a fine of RM3,330 (US$814).
‘[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 said in his ruling.
The judge released the women on bail of RM1,500 (US$366) and their caning is scheduled on 28 August.
Caning is a legal form of corporal punishment in Malaysia. Amnesty International has estimated that about 10,000 people are caned every year.
Same-sex intercourse is outlawed in Malaysia which is currently in the middle of a national debate about the LGBTI community. Last week, the government came under fire for removing the photographic portraits of two well-known LGBTI Malaysians from a photography exhibition.
Caning is a form of torture
Judges do not have the authority to hand out punishments as lessons for society. That’s according to leading LGBTI advocacy group, Justice for Sisters.
‘The role of the court is to ensure justice is served and upheld, not to increase victimisation of persons based on personal prejudice. Punishment cannot be used as lessons for society,’ it said in an open letter co-signed by other organizations.
‘Punishment as a means to serve as lessons for others unfairly exploits and burdens the individuals with severe punishments as stand-ins for others. Such prejudicial thinking can dangerously allow for the abuse of power and exploitation of innocent people, perpetuating injustices.’
The groups condemned the judge’s ruling saying it was a ‘gross violation of their dignity and human rights’.
‘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. Such punishment will further fuel hatred, discrimination and violence towards LGBTIQ persons with impunity,’ the groups said.
The ruling Pakatan Harapan party promised to protect the LGBTI community with the groups saying it should act now.
‘We call the Pakatan Harapan government to immediately intervene in this matter, and end victimisation and torture against the two women in this case,’ they said.