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LGBT rights: Malaysia women caned for attempting lesbian sex

LGBT rights: Malaysia women caned for attempting lesbian sex

The two women who pleaded guilty to attempting to have same-sex relations in a vehicle were caned six times at the Terengganu Syariah High Court here yesterday.

Human rights groups said it was the first time women have been caned in Malaysia for engaging in homosexual relations.

The unnamed Muslim women, ages 22 and 32, were each struck six times with the cane Monday in the Syariah High Court in the Malaysian state of Terengganu, the Star reported.

The women, dressed in white dresses and Muslim headscarves, were each given six strokes as they sat on stools in a sharia court, with one of them breaking down in tears.

The two women caned on Monday, aged 22 and 32, were arrested by sharia law enforcement officers this April, after they were found attempting to engage in sexual acts in a vehicle.

Almost two-thirds of Malaysia's 31 million people are Muslims who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues.

"The power of the court has been enacted in [the] Terengganu state constitution ..."

The two women were fined by the sharia high court on 12 August, after they pleaded guilty to committing musahaqah, or sexual relations between women. She said Malaysian laws were inconsistent because civil laws prohibit corporal punishment against female prisoners.

Charles Santiago, a lawmaker who is part of the governing coalition, said the punishment was "outrageous" and "a form of torture".

In a statement, Amnesty International Malaysia said that people "should not live in fear because they are attracted to people of the same sex" and decried caning as "a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment".

She said Malaysia has accepted a dual legal system and all parties should respect the decision.

A witness to the caning, Thilaga Sulathireh of the group Justice for Sisters, blasted the punishment as torture. "And that mercy is preferable to punishment." . "The caning of the two women is a terrible reminder of the depth of discrimination and criminalisation that LGBTI people face in the country", the non-governmental organisation said. This case shows a regression for human rights. "We really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned. due to their sexuality", he said.

The LGBT community is routinely persecuted in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where they are seen as a threat to conservative values.

Human rights groups criticised 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. Just a week earlier, Malaysia's religious affairs minister ordered the removal of portraits of LGBT activists from an arts festival in Penang, telling reporters, "We do not support the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia".

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