Malaysian PM says caning of lesbians counter to “compassion of Islam”

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government has appeared divided about the LGBT community. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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Malaysian PM says caning of lesbians counter to “compassion of Islam”

  • The two Muslim women were caned for trying to have lesbian sex
  • The Malaysian government is divided on the issue of homosexuality

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday denounced the caning of two Muslim women for attempting lesbian sex, a sentence that sparked outrage and raised fears about the treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The women had pleaded guilty to charges under Islamic laws forbidding lesbian sex. They were caned on Monday in front of dozens of people at a sharia court in Terengganu, a conservative state in the east, prompting an outcry from human rights activists, who described the punishment as torture.
Mahathir’s government has appeared divided about the LGBT community, while the premier himself had been silent on the caning and recent attacks on transgender people and marginalized groups in the Muslim-majority country.
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Mahathir said the caning “did not reflect the justice or compassion of Islam.”
It was the women’s first offense, he said, which warranted a lighter sentence, such as counseling.
“This gives a bad impression of Islam,” the 93-year-old leader said. “It is important that we show Islam is not a cruel religion that likes to impose harsh sentences to humiliate others.”
The LGBT community is routinely persecuted in Malaysia, where it is seen as a threat to conservative values.
Mahathir’s government swept into power in May after campaigning on a reform agenda, but has been unconvincing in its handling of matters relating to race, religion and minorities in the multi-racial country.
The caning followed a series of incidents in recent weeks that civil rights groups say illustrate growing hostility against gay and transgender people.
Last month, a gay bar in Kuala Lumpur was raided by police and religious enforcement officials, while a transgender woman was beaten up by a group of assailants in Seremban, near the capital.
The minister in charge of Islamic affairs also came under fire, including from other ruling party lawmakers, after he ordered the removal of portraits of two LGBT activists from an art exhibition.
Malaysia describes oral and anal sex as against the order of nature. Civil law stipulates jail for up to 20 years, caning and fines for offenders, although enforcement of the law is rare.
Muslims are also governed by state-level Islamic laws, most of which carry provisions outlawing same-sex acts.


The ethical gold rush: Gilded age for guilt-free jewelry

Updated 21 April 2019
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The ethical gold rush: Gilded age for guilt-free jewelry

  • Specialized producers now tack a “fairmined” ecologically friendly label on their output
  • Swiss house Chopard last year became the first big name to commit to “100 percent ethical” creations

PARIS: Forget how many carats — how ethical is your gold? As high-end consumers demand to know the origin of their treasures, some jewellers are ensuring they use responsibly sourced, eco-friendly or recycled gold.
Specialized producers now tack a “fairmined” ecologically friendly label on their output, and the Swiss house Chopard last year became the first big name to commit to “100 percent ethical” creations.
The Geneva-based firm, which makes the Palme d’Or trophy for the Cannes Film Festival, says it now uses only verified suppliers of gold that meet strict standards to minimize negative environmental impacts of mining the precious metal.
Among the many certificates and standards claiming to codify “responsible” goldmining, two labels stand out.
They are “fairmined” gold — a label certified by a Colombian NGO — and the more widely known “fairtrade” label launched by Swiss foundation Max Havelaar.
Both support artisanal mines that seek to preserve the environment in terms of extraction methods, along with decent working conditions and wages for the miners.
Such production remains limited — just a few hundred kilograms annually. Global gold output by comparison totals around 3,300 tons.
Concerned jewellers are keen to ensure they can trace the source of their entire supply to an ethical production cycle and to firms certified by the not-for-profit Responsible Jewellery Council, which has developed norms for the entire supply chain.
RJC members must adhere to tough standards governing ethical, human rights, social and environmental practices across the precious metals industry.
The French luxury group Kering, which says it has bought more than 3.5 tons of “responsibly produced” gold since 2015 for its Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo and Gucci brands, has committed to 100 percent use of “ethical” gold by 2020.
“We are trying to maximize the proportion of Fairmined and Fairtrade gold — but their modest production is in great demand so the bulk of our sourcing remains recycled gold, (which is) certified ‘RJC Chain of Custody’,” says Claire Piroddi, sustainability manager for Kering’s jewelry and watches.
Fairmined or Fairtrade gold is “about 10 to 12 percent more expensive. But recycled gold barely generates any additional cost premium,” Piroddi told AFP, since it was already refined for a previous life in the form of jewelry or part of a high-tech product.
Going a step further, using only precious metal from electronic or industrial waste is an original idea developed by Courbet, a brand launched just last spring.
“We do not want to promote mining extraction or use recently extracted gold, so we sought suppliers who recycle gold used in graphics cards or computer processors. That’s because we know today that more than half of gold’s available reserves have already been extracted,” says Marie-Ann Wachtmeister, Courbet’s co-founder and artistic director.
She says the brand’s watchwords are ethical and environmental consciousness.
“In a mine, a ton of terrain might contain five grams of gold, whereas a ton of electronic waste might generate 200 grams,” Wachtmeister says.
“Clients are also demanding an ecological approach more and more — they are aware of their day-to-day impact and consider the origin of what they wear,” she adds.
“The issue of supply really resonates with the public at large,” adds Thierry Lemaire, director general of Ponce, a jewelry firm that was established in Paris’s fashionable Marais district in 1886.
The company is RJC-certified and uses only recycled gold.
“There is a logic to that — if we want to do our work well, then let’s go the whole hog and respect nature. That can be done today because the entire chain has become standardised.
“Studios such as ours that work for major names on Place Vendome are all certified,” Lemaire says, referring to an upscale square in Paris.
He represents the fifth generation of family firm Ponce, which produces 45,000 gold rings a year from recycled gold.
Working in a pungent atmosphere of heated metal, refiners sit hunched over polishing machines, a large leather hide slung over their knees to catch the tiniest shaving.
“Every Friday, we have a great clearout and go over the workshop with a fine-tooth comb to pick up little bits of (gold) dust and shavings,” Lemaire says.
“Nothing is lost, it’s a truly virtuous chain.”