Women caned in Malaysia for attempting to have lesbian sex

Malaysia is accused of cracking down on LGBT people in the country as hopes that Mahathir's new government would be more inclusive have stuttered following a series of events that have dismayed the LGBT community and their allies

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

Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty's Malaysia researcher, said: "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".

Sharia law enforcement officers in Terengganu identified the two women attempting to engage in sexual acts in a auto in April.

Amnesty International Malaysia said: "Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture".

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

Following widespread worldwide criticism, a decision by the provincial Government earlier this year to ban public canings was met by strong opposition from local parliament, and religious activist groups. "Repentance is the ultimate aim for their sin".

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.

It is the first time anybody has been convicted for same-sex relations in the state and the first time a caning has been carried out in public there, Satiful Bahri Mamat, a member of the state executive council who attended, said. "The caning of the two women is a terrible reminder of the depth of discrimination and criminalisation that LGBTI people face in the country", the non-governmental organisation said.

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Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, operates a dual-track legal system.

"It is a harsh and barbaric form of punishment that causes harmful and long-lasting psychological effects, and has no place in a modern and compassionate society such as ours", George Varughese, president of the Malaysian Bar, said in a statement.

Last month, a transgender woman was reportedly beaten up in a southern state.

Malaysia is now embroiled in a political furore over LGBT+ rights, sparked by government minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa's order to an arts festival to remove its portraits of local queer activists last month.

"It really is a sign of how human rights are regressing in Malaysia not only for LGBT but for all people".

Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters, who witnessed the ordeal, was concerned about the safety, privacy, harassment, humiliation and trauma of the women.

Lawmaker Charles Santiago called on the government to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality.

Malaysia's Muslims have generally been seen as moderate but there are concerns the community is becoming more conservative.

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