The women, were convicted under Islamic laws of attempting to have sex. As punishment, they were subjected to a rare public whipping that has been slammed by lawmakers and human rights activists as a form of torture.
The woman were made to sit on stools facing the judges and given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers. More than 100 people witnessed the caning in a Shariah courtroom in northeast Terengganu state.
Muslim Lawyers’ Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan said unlike caning under civil laws, the punishment under Islamic laws isn’t painful or harsh and was meant to educate the women so they will repent. The women, dressed in white headscarves and clothing, didn’t cry or scream but “showed remorse,” he said.
Human rights groups slammed the punishment as a setback for human rights and said it could worsen discrimination against people in Malaysia’s lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community.
Amnesty International Malaysia said in a statement.
Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture. People should not live in fear because they are attracted to people of the same sex. The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments and ratify the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters who witnessed the caning, said she was shocked by the public spectacle. She said Malaysian laws were inconsistent because civil laws prohibit corporal punishment against female prisoners.
It’s a regression of human rights in Malaysia. It’s not about the severity of the caning. Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention, she said.
Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being. And that mercy is preferable to punishment.
And this is because we really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned let alone because of their sexuality, he said.