Malaysian Muslim lesbian couple caned in public punishment

Corporal punishment, while still practiced, is rare in Malaysia. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 05 September 2018
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Malaysian Muslim lesbian couple caned in public punishment

  • The punishment under Islamic laws isn’t painful or harsh and was meant to educate the women so they will repent
  • More than 100 people witnessed the caning in a Shariah courtroom

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Malaysian Muslim women convicted under Islamic laws of attempting to have sex were caned Monday in a rare public whipping that was slammed by lawmakers and rights activists as a form of torture.
Lawyers and activists said the women, aged 22 and 32, were seated on stools facing the judges and given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers. More than 100 people witnessed the caning in a Shariah courtroom in northeast Terengganu state, they said.
Muslim Lawyers’ Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan said unlike caning under civil laws, the punishment under Islamic laws isn’t painful or harsh and was meant to educate the women so they will repent. The women, dressed in white headscarves and clothing, didn’t cry or scream but “showed remorse,” he said.
“Repentance is the ultimate aim for their sin,” he said.
Human rights groups slammed the punishment as a setback for human rights and said it could worsen discrimination against people in Malaysia’s lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community.
“Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture,” Amnesty International Malaysia said in a statement. “People should not live in fear because they are attracted to people of the same sex. The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture.”
Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 31 million people are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues. The two unidentified women were discovered by Islamic officials in April and sentenced last month by a Shariah court to six strokes of a cane and a fine after pleading guilty.
Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters who witnessed the caning, said she was shocked by the public spectacle. She said Malaysian laws were inconsistent because civil laws prohibit corporal punishment against female prisoners.
“It’s a regression of human rights in Malaysia. It’s not about the severity of the caning. Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention,” she said.
Lawmakers also joined in the chorus of condemnation against the public caning.
“Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being. And that mercy is preferable to punishment,” opposition lawmaker Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted.
Lawmaker Charles Santiago said the government must repeal all laws that criminalize homosexuality.
“And this is because we really need to make sure that no one is publicly caned let alone because of their sexuality,” he said.
Malaysia is seen as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority country, but Islamic conservatism is on the rise.
The caning occurred amid a climate of fear and discrimination against Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. A few weeks ago, authorities removed the portraits of two LGBT rights activists from a public exhibition. Malaysia religious minister Mujahid Yusuf later said the government doesn’t support the promotion of LGBT culture. A transgender woman was also beaten up by a group of people in a southern state this month.


Personality on the morning commute: Australia’s emoji license plates

Updated 21 February 2019
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Personality on the morning commute: Australia’s emoji license plates

  • Queensland's largest automotive organization and some residents welcomed the digital addition
  • But some think it is costly and could attract unwanted attention
BRISBANE, Australia: Motorists in northeastern Australia can soon have their personality permanently stamped on their vehicles with the option of an emoji added to their license plates.
It will be positive vibes only on the morning commute after a Queensland firm announced that from March drivers can add the smiling, winking, laughing out loud, heart-eyed and sunglasses emoji to their plates.
The state’s largest automotive organization has welcomed the digital addition.
“For quite some time we’ve seen you can support your favorite team or town with a symbol on your number plate and using an emoji is no different,” Royal Automobile Club of Queensland spokesperson Rebecca Michaels told AFP.
Queensland resident Laura McKee has already put her order in for the new look plates.
“It’s a bit of fun, if this brightens up someone’s day while their stuck in traffic, then so be it,” she told AFP.
With a cost of between Aus$100 ($70) and $500 per plate, Queensland local Aroha Liebhart isn’t a fan, and thinks the emojis could attract unwanted attention.
“The cost pushes them out of reach for so many people, no one I know will be purchasing them when they’re so expensive,” she told AFP.
“I live in a high crime area, I do believe this will entice people to target the cars who do have them.”
But resident Mark Edwards wants to see more options for drivers, to better express a driver’s changing moods.
“They should be interchangeable so when you’re tired you can warn drivers, or when you’re a little angry you can swap them over,” he told AFP.