'Musahaqah'

2 women sentenced to be caned in Malaysia for attempting to have lesbian sex

(Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

A judge in Malaysia on Tuesday, in what is said to be a legal first, sentenced two women to be caned and fined them after the couple was caught trying to have sex in a car, Reuters reported. The prosecutor in the case, Muhamad Khasmizan Abdullah, said the two women were discovered in the automobile by Islamic enforcement officers who were out on patrol in the northern state of Terengganu, a deeply conservative region where sharia law is enforced.

The two women, reportedly 32 and 22 years old, were arrested back in April and charged with violating the sharia law “musahaqah.” According to the Islamic enforcement officers who happened upon the two, one of the women was undressed and a dildo was confiscated at the scene. Appearing before a judge on Sunday, the two women reportedly pleaded guilty and admitted to having violated sharia law, which prohibits sex between women. The women were sentenced to be caned six times each and fined about $800 apiece.

According to reports, the judge openly admitted that the sentence was meant to send a message to other women. “Adequate punishment must be meted out so that this becomes a lesson and reminder to not just the two of you, but the members of society,” Shariah judge Kamalruazmi Ismail was quoted by local media as having said.

Abdullah, the prosecutor in the case, hailed the verdict. “Sexual intercourse between people of the same sex is forbidden in Islam. It is an offense and morally wrong,” he told Reuters. “This verdict is a first for us,” he added, suggesting no one has ever been convicted in Terengganu over same-sex relations until now.

But while the prosecutor celebrated the harsh ruling, human rights activists pushed back denouncing the ruling and warning of a recent increase in discrimination against gay and lesbian Malaysians. The country is about 60 percent ethnic Malay Muslim and citizens are subject to federal laws and state laws, which are often based on Islamic law. Gay and lesbian sex is typically outlawed.

The local chapter of Amnesty International condemned the ruling and called for the repeal of religious based laws due to the “growing threat on the lives and the safety” they present top LGBT people. And a coalition of human rights groups issued a statement denouncing the verdict and saying the sentence amounted to torture. “Consensual sex between adults is not a crime,” the statement said. This is a precedence and it will increase discrimination toward LGBT people.” But calls made by Reuters to the high court in Terengganu went unanswered and Malaysia’s minister of religious affairs was out of the country and reportedly unreachable.

Unless the government intervenes, the women are scheduled to be caned on August 28. “The caning would be carried out within the court premise,” Abdullah said. “Under the sharia rules, they will be whipped with a rattan cane on their back with their clothes on while they are seated.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

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