Malaysian woman first to be caned under Shariah law

A Malaysian state court sentenced a Muslim woman to six strokes of the cane after she was caught drinking beer in a hotel in the Malaysian state of Pahang.

Amnesty International called on the Malaysian government to immediately stop the use of caning as a punishment. The organization also called for the government to repeal all laws providing for caning and all other forms of corporal punishment.

Kartika Sari Devvi Shukarno, 32, was also fined RM5,000 (approximately US$ 1,400) by a court administering Islamic Shariah law in the Malaysian state of Pahang after she pleaded guilty to the offence. The court has ordered that she be remanded at the Kajang women’s prison from Monday and caned within seven days of this date.

“Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and is prohibited under international human rights law,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “The Malaysian government should do all it can to stop this inhumane punishment being used in any circumstance.”

Caning is currently used as a supplementary punishment for at least 40 crimes in Malaysia, but this is the first time it has been used against anyone found guilty of violating the country’s religious laws. The Shariah law applies only to Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the country’s 28 million population.

In June 2009, the Malaysian government announced that they had sentenced 47,914 migrants to be caned for immigration offences since amendments to its Immigration Act came into force in 2002. At least 34,923 migrants have so far been caned between 2002 and 2008, according to the country’s prison department records.