Public caning for lesbian sex unIslamic, says lawyers group

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the public caning of two women convicted of attempting to have same-sex relations, saying the punishment was abhorrent and unIslamic in nature.

The women, who were caught attempting to have sex in April, were charged under shariah law and sentenced to six strokes of the cane and a fine of RM3,300.

The caning was carried out yesterday before a crowd of about 100 people at the Terengganu Shariah High Court.

LFL executive director Latheefa Koya said lesbianism or homosexuality as a whole was not considered a crime under hudud.

“At most, it would be a crime under ta’zir. Furthermore, it is important to note that during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, there was no record of anyone being publicly caned or punished for homosexuality.

“Hence this degrading and humiliating punishment is in fact unIslamic, for even with ‘sinners’, Islam emphasises heavily on the concept of mercy and the protection of the privacy and dignity of individuals,” she said in a statement.

Latheefa also slammed the Shariah Court for its statement that the caning did not hurt the women and that their privacy was protected as they had separate doors to enter and exit the court premises.

“(This is an) utterly ridiculous statement when you take into account that the punishment was carried out in the presence of 100 people which included curious bystanders, not to mention the mental anguish these women must have suffered through this ordeal.

“This abhorrent ‘punishment’ does not bode well for the way Islam in Malaysia is progressing,” she said.

She also questioned the legality of the punishment, noting that under the Prison Act 1955 and the Prison Regulations 2000, caning can only be administered to prisoners.

As the women were not prisoners at the time, she said, the Shariah Court appeared to have overstepped its bounds.

“Ironically, this thirst for punishment is affecting Islam more negatively than any sinful act can. Punishment is not the answer here, and executing degrading punishments to sinners is unacceptable,” she said.

“Acts transgressing human rights under the pretext of Islam is a disservice to the religion and its role as the paragon of justice and equality.”