Malaysia: Two women caned and fined for attempting to have sex

Malaysia is accused of cracking down on LGBT people in the country as hopes that Mahathir's new government would be more inclusive have stuttered following a series of events that have dismayed the LGBT community and their allies

The women, ages 22 and 32, were caned by a female prison officer, Malaysian news outlets reported.

Just yesterday (Sept 3), two Muslim women were caned in public for attempting sexual acts on each other three weeks ago.

But in an example of how divided activists and some government officials are, Terengganu Bar Council Chairman Sallehudin Harun said he was impressed with the caning and said it puts the shariah court in a "positive light".

The case has sparked widespread condemnation and focused attention on what rights groups say is a deteriorating climate for the gay community in the Muslim-majority country.

Human rights activists reacted with outrage. The women were caned six times each in the Sharia High Court in front of around 100 people.

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They pleaded guilty to the charges last month.

Gwen Lee, Amnesty International's Malaysia head, slammed the punishment as "cruel and unjust".

Under Malaysian civil law the caning of women is prohibited, but it is permitted under Islamic law in some states that have adopted concurrent sharia laws.

A member of the Terengganu state executive council, Satiful Bahri Mamat, defended the punishment, telling the agency it had not been meant to "torture or injure" and had been carried out in public to "serve as a lesson to society".

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system which allows Islamic courts to handle religious and family cases for the country's Muslims, which make up about 60 percent of the population. "I have consistently repeated in Parliament that we do not support the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia", he said at the time.

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"Hence this degrading and humiliating punishment is in fact unIslamic, for even with "sinners", Islam emphasises heavily on the concept of mercy and the protection of the privacy and dignity of individuals", she said in a statement.

Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty's Malaysia researcher, said: "To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback on the government's efforts to improve its human rights records".

Santiago said the government was "voted in on the premise of inclusion" and must therefore repeal all laws criminalising homosexuality without delay.

"Sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalised, let alone punished with whipping", Women's Aid Organisation said. A transgender woman was also beaten up by a group of people in a southern state this month.

Malaysian religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa ordered portraits of LGBT activists removed from an arts festival in Penang in early August, sparking an avalanche of criticism.

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