Malaysia Publicly Canes 2 Lesbian Women For Attempting To Have Sex In A Car

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. 

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

H/T: NST, Times of Israel, CNN