Lesbian couple caned in public as punishment

TWO women in Malaysia have been caned in court in front of family members for attempting to have consensual sex with each other.

The unnamed women, aged 22 and 32, were each caned six times in the Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu as punishment for attempting to have sex in a car.

The caning was witnessed by more than 100 people, according to local news outlet The Star, including family members and government officials.

Homosexual activity is illegal under both secular and religious laws, however according to an official, this is the state's first conviction for same-sex relations and its first public caning, the BBC reports.

The women were arrested in April after being discovered in a car by Islamic enforcement officers. They pleaded guilty to breaking Islamic laws last month and were sentenced to be caned and fined $1110.

Human rights organisations condemned the sentencing as a setback for human rights and said it could worsen discrimination against people in Malaysia's LGBT community.

Women's Aid Organisation said it was "appalled by this grave violation of human rights".

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 UN Convention Against Torture."

Muslim Lawyers' Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan told AP that, 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.

"Repentance is the ultimate aim for their sin," he added.

Malaysian Muslim women arrive for prayer at a mosque in Shah Alam. Picture: AP/Yam G-Jun
Malaysian Muslim women arrive for prayer at a mosque in Shah Alam. Picture: AP/Yam G-Jun

Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 31 million people are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues.

Malaysia is seen as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority country, but Islamic conservatism is on the rise.

The caning occurred amid a climate of fear and discrimination against Malaysia's LGBT community.

A few weeks ago, authorities removed the portraits of two LGBT rights activists from a public exhibition.

Malaysia religious minister Mujahid Yusuf later said the government doesn't support the promotion of LGBT culture.

A transgender woman was also beaten up by a group of people in a southern state this month. - with wires