Two Malaysian women were caned Monday for having lesbian sex in violation of strict Islamic laws, despite an outcry from activists at the "cruel and unjust" punishment.
"To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback on the government's efforts to improve its human rights records", Amnesty International'sMalaysia researcher, Rachel Chhoa-Howard, said.
The sharia high court in Terengganu, a state in Malaysia's conservative northeast, sentenced the two women to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 3,300 Malaysian ringgit (US$800), after they pleaded guilty to the charges.
The women, dressed in white gowns and headscarves, apparently remained silent during the lashing, which was carried out in front of several dozen spectators, including members of the public.
The two unidentified women were discovered by officials in April and sentenced last month by a Sharia court to six strokes of a cane and a fine after pleading guilty.
Under the Malaysian legal system, Muslim citizens are subject both to secular criminal and civil law and to sharia laws governing religious adherence, while the sizable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities have no obligation to obey Islamic law.
Sharia law enforcement officers in Terengganu identified the two women attempting to engage in sexual acts in a auto in April.
The two unidentified women were discovered by officials in a parked vehicle in April and sentenced last month to six strokes of a cane and $800 fines each after pleading guilty.
Court official Wan Abdul Malik Wan Sidek defended the punishment, saying it was not as tough as caning carried out for numerous crimes under Malaysia's civil law.
The Justice for Sisters activist said the group was concerned the case would set a risky precedent for the increased policing of morality and sexual identities in Malaysia.
A witness to the caning, Thilaga Sulathireh of the group Justice for Sisters, blasted the punishment as torture. "Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention". This case shows a regression for human rights.
"Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being".
"And this is because we really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned let alone due to their sexuality", he said.
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.
Reportedly the situation for LGBT communityis getting harder and harder in Malaysia.
Malaysian religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa ordered portraits of LGBT activists removed from an arts festival in Penang in early August, sparking an avalanche of criticism.
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