PETALING JAYA: A group of 25 NGOs has called on the government to abolish the sentence of whipping or caning, describing it as an “inhumane, degrading and cruel” form of penal punishment.
The group, which includes NGOs such as Aliran, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet), and an association of Malaysian academics known as Gerak, also called for an immediate moratorium on whipping pending its abolition.
First introduced by the British in the 19th century and codified under the 1871 Penal Code Ordinance of the Straits Settlements, whipping is still retained in many laws and is a sentence for more than 50 offences.
The group noted that before last year’s general election, then law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Malaysia would abolish whipping sentences by 2023 and judges will have the discretion to hand down the sentence, if amendments to the law were passed.
“We ask that the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, if it is committed to human rights, speedily abolish whipping as a form of corporal punishment in Malaysia, which is an internationally acknowledged form of torture,” it said in a statement.
It also called for the abolition of the mandatory sentence of whipping that removes judges’ discretion to not sentence a person to be whipped similar to how the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023 (Act 846), which came into force on July 4, had removed the mandatory death penalty too.
“This means that if one is not sentenced to death, but to imprisonment, then judges have no choice but to sentence (the accused) to be whipped at least 12 times,” it said.
The group said undocumented foreigners or migrant workers are the biggest victims of whipping in Malaysia.
As Malaysian law does not recognise asylum seekers or refugees, it said, they are considered illegal or undocumented foreigners or migrants, and are at risk of being whipped.
Citing prisons department records, it said 47,914 foreigners were found to have violated the Immigration Act from 2002 to 2008. Of these, 34,923 were caned or whipped.
“If the trend continues, undocumented migrants in Malaysia may likely make up the majority of those being whipped,” it said.
It said countries such as India and the United Kingdom abolished whipping as a punishment from their statutes in 1955 and 1948, respectively, and Saudi Arabia had also abolished flogging as a form of punishment in 2020.