Human rights and LGBT activists have decried the public caning of two women in Malaysia after they were found guilty of attempting to have sex, a punishment that reportedly marked the first time that women have been caned for homosexuality in the predominantly Muslim country. In August, the two women, ages 22 and 32, had pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual relations between women in front of the sharia high court in Terengganu, the country’s conservative northeastern state, after sharia law enforcement officers allegedly spotted the two women trying to engage in sex acts in a car. They were issued a $800 fine and six canings appiece by the judges. The corporal punishment was carried out in the courtroom, where it was witnessed by an estimated 100 people that included members of the public.
Thilaga Sulathireh, an activist with local rights group Justice for Sisters, told The Guardian that the case was evidence of “a regression for human rights” in the country, “not only for LGBT people but all persons.”
“The punishment was shocking and it was a spectacle. For all intents and purposes it was a public caning,” said Sulathireh, adding that the case could be used as precedent to justify further policing of sexuality. Under Malaysian law, states are allowed to impose sharia law as they so choose.
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