Outrage in Malaysia after two women caned for lesbian sex

Malaysia is accused of cracking down on LGBT people in the country as hopes that Mahathir's new government would be more inclusive have stuttered following a series of events that have dismayed the LGBT community and their allies

Women caned in Malaysia for attempting to have lesbian sex

While women in Malaysia have been caned for sexual offences in the past, such as adultery, rights activists say this is the first time two women have been caned for attempting to have sex.

Islamic enforcement officers in northern Terengganu state, one of the country's most conservative areas, arrested the women in April.

Amnesty International called the caning "a awful day" for human rights.

They had last month pleaded guilty to breaking Islamic laws and were sentenced to be caned and fined RM3,300 ($800, £619).

However, he also told parliament that the government is concerned about the "spread of the LGBT lifestyle", and has reportedly spoken about camps and seminars for LGBT people, according to Human Rights Watch.

Following widespread worldwide criticism, a decision by the provincial Government earlier this year to ban public canings was met by strong opposition from local parliament, and religious activist groups.

Abdul Rahim Sinwan, deputy president of the Muslim Lawyers' Association, said the caning was "not harsh" and was meant to educate the women in order for them to repent.

"Repentance is the ultimate aim for their sin", he said, according to the AP.

It is believed to be the first time that women have received corporal punishment in Malaysia for breaching a Sharia regulation against same-sex relations.

"It is a harsh and barbaric form of punishment that causes harmful and long-lasting psychological effects, and has no place in a modern and compassionate society such as ours", George Varughese, president of the Malaysian Bar, said in a statement.

The punishment, which is banned under civil law in Malaysia, is allowed under Islamic law in the country's dual-track legal system.

"It's a regression of human rights in Malaysia".

Lawmaker Charles Santiago said the government must repeal all laws that criminalize homosexuality.

Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters who witnessed the caning, said she was shocked by the public spectacle.

On August 15 a transgender woman was beaten up by a group in Setemban, south of Kuala Lumpur, in what activists said was part of a growing hostility towards gay and transgender people. Just a week earlier, Malaysia's religious affairs minister ordered the removal of portraits of LGBT activists from an arts festival in Penang, telling reporters, "We do not support the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia".

While Malaysian Muslims tend to practice a moderate form of Islam, more conservative Islam is on the rise, thought to be a result of increasing influence and investment from Saudi Arabia.

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