PETALING JAYA: The Terengganu shariah court’s decision to carry out a controversial whipping sentence on two Muslim women accused of homosexual relations will send a signal that Malaysia tolerates violence on sexual minorities, says prominent social activist Marina Mahathir.
“There will be lifetime emotional scarring and stigma for the two women,” Marina told FMT today, when asked to comment on the caning which was carried out at the Terengganu Shariah High Court today.
It was reported that some 100 people witnessed the caning, in what is the first such case in Malaysia.
The two women, arrested last April by Terengganu religious authorities for attempting to have sex in a car, had pleaded guilty to a shariah charge against them.
They were sentenced to a fine of RM3,300 and six strokes of the cane, in a ruling which sparked condemnation from rights groups.
Marina added that the authorities were giving a signal that violence against sexual minorities was acceptable.
Lawyer Latheefa Koya, who heads rights group Lawyers for Liberty, said the punishment on the duo was “unIslamic”.
She described the argument that shariah-style caning would not hurt the women, and that it had taken into account their privacy, as “utterly ridiculous”.
She said such a punishment was similar to actions by Saudi Arabia and the IS group who were “well known … for their horrendous human rights transgressions”.
“(It) does not bode well for the way Islam in Malaysia is progressing,” she said.
Her view echoes a statement by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), which said the whipping sentence “increases shame, harm, and trauma” to the women.
JAG also questioned the shariah court’s process, saying there was a possibility the women had not truly understood the gravity of their charge.