Disagree with public caning? Push for state law changes, says Khalid Samad

Members of Nepal's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community prepare for a gay pride parade in Kathmandu

Campaigners said it was the first time women in Malaysia have been caned for violating a sharia regulation which forbids same-sex relations.

The pair, aged 22 and 32, "were seated on stools facing the judges and given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers" this morning, the Associated Press reports.

The punishment was carried out in court on Monday (Sept 3), witnessed by some 100 people including journalists.

Abdul Rahim Sinwan, deputy president of the Muslim Lawyers' Association, said the caning was "not harsh" and was meant to educate the women in order for them to repent.

Same-sex relations are abhorred in Malaysia and considered illegal under both secular and religious laws.

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

They had last month pleaded guilty to breaking Islamic laws and were sentenced to be caned and fined RM3,300 ($800, £619). Before the caning was carried out, Gwen Lee, Amnesty International's Malaysia head, slammed the punishment as "cruel and unjust".

"There's a disparity and gap between Muslim and non-Muslim women", Sulathireh said.

"Under global human rights law, corporal punishment constitutes a form of torture", Varughese said in a statement calling for an immediate moratorium on all forms of corporal punishment.

The country operates a dual-track legal system. And that mercy is preferable to punishment, " opposition lawmaker Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted.

Rights groups assailed the new government for discrimination against gay men and lesbians and for continuing to allow a form of corporal punishment outlawed in most of the world.

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.

Authorities also removed the portraits of two LGBT activists from a public exhibition a few weeks ago, with the country's religious minister, Mujahid Yusuf, later saying that the government did not support the promotion of LGBT culture.

Santiago said the government was "voted in on the premise of inclusion" and must therefore repeal all laws criminalising homosexuality without delay.

"This case shows a regression for human rights", she said, "Not only for LGBT people but all persons because corporal punishment affects all people". "We really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned. due to their sexuality", he said.

While Malaysian Muslims tend to practice a moderate form of Islam, more conservative Islam is on the rise, thought to be a result of increasing influence and investment from Saudi Arabia.

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