Activists condemn "inhuman" caning of Malaysian lesbian

Numan Afifi, an LGBTQ activist with the Pelangi Campaign, spoke about how it feels to be a gay citizen in Malaysia after the caning.

Two women have been caned in Malaysia after being found guilty of attempting to have sex with each other in what is said to be the first case of such a punishment imposed on women for being lesbians.

The two unnamed women, ages 22 and 32, were arrested in April after Islamic enforcement officers spotted them in a vehicle together in northeast Terengganu state, according to Agence France-Presse.

The caning was carried out in the courtroom and was witnessed by up to 100 people, including the public.

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 auto.

Meanwhile, Terengganu Bar Council chairman Sallehudin Harun, who also represented the Bar Council, said he would prepare a short report on the caning and present it to the council.

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

Thilaga Sulathireh, an activist from the Malaysian rights group Justice for Sisters, told The Guardian the sentence was a "regression for human rights".

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". "The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture".

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Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims running alongside civil laws.

Last month they pleaded guilty to attempting lesbian sex and were fined and sentenced to six lashings of the cane.

Under Malaysian civil law caning is banned, but with 60% of Malaysians being Muslim, it is allowed under Islamic laws in some states. It's not about the severity of the caning. And it was also the first time the kind of punishment that was open to the public.

The public nature of the caning has been criticised, including by Umno's Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, who said it should not have been done publicly as Islamic teachings are that the dignity of each person should be looked after.

"Mercy is preferable to punishment".

"Sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalised, let alone punished with whipping".

Malaysia's Muslims have generally been seen as moderate but there are concerns the community is becoming more conservative. Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa has spoken out against bullying and said Islamic authorities should end their focus on arresting transgender women for "posing as a female".

A transgender woman was beaten up by a group of assailants in Seremban, south of Kuala Lumpur on August 15, in what activists said was part of a growing hostility towards gay and transgender people.

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