Amnesty International described the Monday public caning of two women convicted of attempting lesbian sex in a car as “an appalling day” for human rights in Malaysia.
The LGBTQ+ community is routinely persecuted in Malaysia, where Islam is the majorities religion, because they are seen as a threat to conservative values.
The two women had pleaded guilty last month to attempting lesbian sex, forbidden under Islamic law. They were sentenced to a fine and six lashings of the cane, as reported by the Huffington Post.
Satiful Bahri Mamat, a member of the Terengganu state executive council, defended the punishment, stating that the caning had not been intended to “torture or injure” and had been carried out in public to “serve as a lesson to society,” as reported by BBC.
The sentence was carried out at the Sharia High Court in Terengganu in front of about 100 people. The caning of women is banned under civil law, but allowed under Islamic laws in some states. Terengganu is a conservative state ruled by the Islamist opposition party Pan-Malaysian Islamist Party (PAS), according to a report by English-language daily the New Straits Times.
“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,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Malaysia researcher, said.
The case comes amid concerns around growing intolerance toward the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia in recent weeks.
A transgender woman was beaten up by a group of assailants in Seremban, south of Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 15, in what activists said was part of a growing hostility towards gay and transgender people, as reported by the Huffington Post.