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Single mother guilty of prostitution in Malaysia to be jailed, caned

The man, said to be the woman's client, was reportedly released without charge reporter, Kuala Lumpur reporter, Kuala Lumpur

Updated: September 28, 2018 09:46 AM GMT
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Single mother guilty of prostitution in Malaysia to be jailed, caned

Indonesian onlookers witness a public flogging in front of a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh on April 20. A woman in a Malaysian state is to be caned and jailed after being found guilty of prostitution. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

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Another Muslim woman in Malaysia is set to be caned and jailed after being found guilty of immoral activities by a state Sharia court.

The 30-year-old single mother was sentenced to six months in jail and six strokes of the cane on Sept. 27 by an Islamic court judge in the state of Terengganu, a bastion of Islamic conservatism in the north east of Malaysia.

The woman, who has not been identified, confessed to offering sexual services in a hotel, reported the media.

The harsh sentence comes on the heels of another case in the same state that caused an outcry when two young women, found guilty of engaging in a lesbian relationship, were ordered to be publicly canned  earlier this month.

In the latest case, Islamic court judge Rosdi Harun said the sentence was in accordance with state Islamic laws, which provides a maximum fine of RM5,000 (US $1,208) or imprisonment for up to three years, and/or six strokes of the cane, upon conviction.

The woman, arrested on Sept. 17 by state Islamic officials while with a man in a room, was not represented by a lawyer.

Her failure to show remorse throughout the proceedings is believed to have angered the judge in the state which is governed by the hard-line Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

Sisters in Islam (SIS), a Malaysian civil society organisation fighting to promote the rights of women within the frameworks of Islam and universal human rights, slammed the ruling as cruel and contradictory to Islamic principles.

The group pointed to mitigating circumstances reported by local media, including her abandonment by her former husband and that she was trying to support a child.

SIS also noted that the woman had not received any financial support from her ex-husband, and was given the maximum punishment despite being a first-time offender.

"The zeal with which the punishment was meted out ignores these circumstances that previously would have mitigated sentencing. Where is the compassion that lies at the heart of Islamic teachings?" the group asked in a statement on Sept. 27.

State Islamic laws used in the proceedings explicitly targets women, making them disproportionately vulnerable to and affected by this law, SIS said.

The man who was said to be the woman's client had reportedly been released without any charge.

Civil groups, alarmed by the recent incidents of Islamic authorities promoting unusual and cruel punishments for offenses under Islamic law, have urged the government to call for a moratorium on corporal punishment.

"Today's case clearly demonstrates that the humiliation experienced by women before, during and after the whipping is not considered a relevant factor of their pain, when in fact humiliation is a key aspect of the punishment and causes lasting psychological trauma," SIS said.

"We strongly reiterate that whipping does little, if anything at all, to 'educate'. In fact, such a punishment, which is void of compassion and mercy, only tarnishes Islam and reinforces Islamophobic stereotypes that Islam discriminates against women."

Days after the uproar over the public caning of the two women, witnessed by more than 100 people earlier this month, Malaysian politicians including Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad questioned the need for public canings.

Anwar Ibrahim, who is projected to be Malaysia's prime minister when Mahathir steps down and who once helmed the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, told reporters in Manila, Philippines that he was against such punishments.

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