Responding to the news that a sentence of six strokes of caning has been carried out in a courtroom against two women in Terengganu state – reportedly witnessed by family members and government officials – after they were convicted of attempting to have consensual same-sex sexual relations with each other, Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher, said:
“This is a terrible day for LGBTI rights, and indeed human rights, in Malaysia. To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback in the government’s efforts to improve its human rights record.
“The caning of the two women is a dreadful reminder of the depth of discrimination and criminalization that LGBTI people face in the country. It’s a sign that the new government condones the use of measures that amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, much like its predecessor.
“As long as draconian legislation which criminalizes Malaysians based on their sexual orientation and gender identity remains on the books, LGBTI people will continue to be at risk of this type of punishment. People should not live in fear because of who they are and who they love – the Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments, and ratify the UN Convention against Torture.”
On 12 August 2018, the Terengganu Shari’a High Court sentenced two Malaysian women, aged 22 and 32, to a fine of RM3,300 (£633) and six strokes of caning for “sexual relations between women.”
The caning of the two women follows weeks of attacks against LGBTI people in Malaysia. LGBTI establishments have been subjected to raids, and politicians and government officials have made a series of discriminatory statements against LGBTI people. Last week, Religious Minister Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa was quoted in media reports as saying that the Pakatan Harapan government has “never recognised” LGBTI people, and that the government’s engagement with them in the past was only for LGBTI people’s “rehabilitation”.
Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture, and as such is prohibited absolutely under international law.