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Malaysian women caned for 'illicit sex' under Shariah

Two women were each caned six times in front of a Shariah court judge and in full view of about 100 onlookers

ucanews.com reporter, Kuala Lumpur

ucanews.com reporter, Kuala Lumpur

Updated: September 03, 2018 10:23 AM GMT
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Malaysian women caned for 'illicit sex' under Shariah

An Acehnese youth is punished for dating outside of marriage, which is against Shariah, outside a mosque in Banda Aceh on Aug. 1, 2016. The strictly Muslim province of Aceh is the only one in Indonesia implementing Shariah. This week two women were caned in a Malaysian state for attempting to engage in sexual relations. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

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Two women found guilty of attempting sexual relations were caned in public by Islamic authorities in a Malaysian state on Sept. 3.

The caning took place at the Shariah Court building in Terengganu, a northern state in Malaysia recently taken over and ruled by the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

Satiful Bahri Mamat — the state official in charge of the implementation of Shariah — said the public caning served as a warning to Muslims against committing zina, or illicit sex, reported Malaya Mail.

He labelled the offence as a "cancer that can spread in society."

The two women, who pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual relations, were caned six times each in front of a Shariah court judge and in full view of about 100 onlookers including government agency representatives and NGO members, a Muslim Lawyers Association representatives told the media.

Aged 22 and 32, the women had been detained by state Islamic officials in April after they were found in a car allegedly engaged in a sexual act.

The court also fined them 3,300 ringgit (around US$830) each. Homosexual sex is a criminal offense in Malaysia.

Abdul Rahim Sinwan, a lawyer with the Muslim Lawyers Association, which held a watching brief over the case, was quoted by the Malay Mail as saying that though the caning was open to the public, there was no intention to humiliate.

"Humiliation is out of the question. To hurt the person is out of the question," said Sinwan.

"They were brought through different doors, they were taken out through different doors, as the purpose is not to humiliate the person. The caning [under Shariah] is not meant to hurt the person. It is to educate the person. Therefore it's not painful, it's not harsh."

He insisted that Shariah caning is different from the caning punishment that is applied under Malaysian criminal law for serious offenses.

Meanwhile, in an immediate response, rights group Sisters in Islam declared the caning illegal. The NGO said the punishment contravened Malaysia's Criminal Procedure Code which prohibits corporal punishment against females.

They said that while Shariah allows women to be caned, the country's dual (civil and Islamic) justice systems create inconsistencies in the jurisdiction of the Prisons Department, directly affecting the rights of women in Malaysia protected by the federal constitution against gender discrimination.

Malaysia's civil laws stipulate that caning can only be carried out against prisoners.

Sisters in Islam pointed out that the two caned women were not prisoners when the sentence was carried out.

The Malaysian Prison Act 1995 defined those who could be caned "as a person, whether convicted or not, under confinement in a prison and in relation to a convicted prisoner, includes a prisoner released on parole."

Sisters in Islam said the caning raises questions as to who authorized and carried it out and whether the federal government, which oversees the prisons department, had consented to it.

According to reports, officers from the prisons department carried out the caning.

Civil groups in Malaysia say whipping as a form of punishment should end as it violates international human rights principles which regard whipping and other forms of corporal punishment as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

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