On August 18, 2018, a lesbian couple was fined $796 (RM3,300) and ordered six strokes each of the rotan after pleading guilty to engaging in same-sex relations in a vehicle in northern Terengganu in April. Just over two weeks later, on Sept. 3, their sentence was carried out publicly.
The pair, aged 22 and 32, were accused of breaking Section 30 and Section 50 of the Syariah Criminal Code Enactment. The couple received their lashings at the Shariah High Court in Kuala Terengganu, a region of Malaysia known for being highly conservative.
‘The women, aged 22 and 32, were supposed to be caned six times on Tuesday (Aug 28). They have been released on bail as they await their sentence. The caning is expected to take place at the Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court’
— Adam (@ATMology) August 28, 2018
Around 100 people were present, including chief judge Wan Mohd Zakri Wan Mohd, senior judge Rosdi Harun, dan judge Kamlruazmi Ismail, and the couple’s family members. Though the two did break the law by attempting to have sex in a public square, many have stepped forward to critique the manner of how they were punished.
This sentencing by the Syariah High Court REEKS of misogynistic male perversion, titillated by the public display & humiliating of lesbian sex personified by 2 women.
To punish what titillates him that he feels entitled to but is denied.
Think Frollo & Esmeralda pic.twitter.com/DUY0tQR301
— (@diandujour) September 4, 2018
MALAYSIA: Two women who were sentenced to be caned six times each after pleading guilty to same-sex relations by the Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court did not shout nor scream.About 150 people were present in the courtroom, watching.WELCOME TO ISIS STATE.
— Erwin Jullius (@ErwinJullius) September 4, 2018
A spokesperson from the transgender rights group, Justice for Sisters, believed the caning would “increase the impunity of perpetrators to carry out acts of violence” against gay people. Also critical of the court’s sentencing was Gwen Lee, Amnesty International’s Malaysia head, who called it “cruel and unjust.”
— Buletin Malaysia (@buletinmalaysia) September 4, 2018
The 2 women were just caned in a court room. It was a public caning. How mad is Malaysia? How mad does it have to get before we're mad enough to do something?
— Pang Khee Teik (@PangKheeTeik) September 3, 2018
I say bad education is the root of the problem. Time to revisit religion curriculum in gov school. Close down the unregulated religious school and stop churning out islamic study graduates like butter. We need more scientists and engineers not religious fanatics.
— Fantastic Mr Musang (@cucur_kodok) September 3, 2018
Lee also spoke out generally on Malaysia’s use of caning, stating it “must end the use of caning and repeal the laws that impose these torturous punishments completely.”
Malaysia is OUTRAGEOUS! Public caning was given to a pair of lesbians for making out in public while a man who married an 11year old child was fucking LEGALISED.
Something is seriously wrong with our legal system
— peiyi (@yimpeiyi) September 3, 2018
The caning goes against the spirit of Malaysia wanting to ratify the Convention against Torture this year.
Furthermore, criminalising consensual sex between these two adults is a violation of international human rights law, not to mention that Malaysia has ratified the CEDAW.
— Charles Santiago (@mpklang) September 3, 2018
Despite the outcry over the caning, the Islamic affairs minister continued to push back against he LGBTQ community. During a public exhibition, he ordered that pictures of LGBTQ activists be removed, and has been vocal against the gay community.
A stark reminder that there are still a lot of reformation to be done in 2018's Malaysia. But I believe love will win in the end. https://t.co/2IYSzqVbgz
— Chuck (@chuckusan) September 3, 2018
two consenting women have sex : public caning
old pervert marries 11 year old : fine $
— wh.tsername (@larissal0relle) September 4, 2018
This kind of vitriol has led to a concern over the status of the LGBTQ community in Malaysia, and whether it would still have a place in a nation where 60% of the population is Muslim. Linda Lakhdhir, legal adviser in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, told CNN that the punishment was the religious rights way of “flexing their muscles and making clear that the law against LGBT activity will be enforced in their state.”
I am shocked and saddened by the public caning of the two women in Terangganu yesterday. Difficult to understand and explain to the outside world that this is happening in the “new Malaysia”.
— Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt (@DDannfelt) September 4, 2018
Numan Afifi, an LGBTQ activist with the Pelangi Campaign, spoke about how it feels to be a gay citizen in Malaysia after the caning. “It’s very uncomfortable, [people are] feeling very depressed right now. People are afraid because this is the first time that two women are being caned for sexual acts,” she told CNN.
According to campaigners attending the caning, this case was the first time a Malay woman had been caned in relation to Shariah regulations on same-sex relations.