Authorities defend public caning of two young women for attempting to have lesbian sex

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The Terengganu government defended the state Shariah High Court’s decision to publicly cane a 22-year-old woman and a 32-year-old woman six-times each for attempting to have lesbian sex. The caning was meted out on Monday and was witnessed by a crowd of about a 100 people.

Monday’s caning was the first time such punishment was meted out in the state of Terengganu.

Although both women chose not to appeal against their sentence despite being given the opportunity to do so, human rights activists have expressed outrage at the “inhumane” punishment.

Arguing that critics have made assumptions without witnessing the form and method of how the sentence is meted out, state executive councillor for shariah implementation, education and higher studies Satiful Bahari Mamat said that the caning that was imposed on the women was different from the harsher whipping that is imposed by civil courts:

“The critics may not have understood or witnessed the punishment but made an assumption based on civil laws which provide for harsher penalties. That is why caning under civil laws is done in prison and on the bare buttocks.

“However, under shariah laws, the offender is caned while seated and with the aurat covered, and the caning is done lightly because the objective is to educate.”

Satiful further defended that the punishment was only meted out after the offenders admitted guilt and agreed to be punished: “The offenders in this case were given time to file an appeal but they chose not to do it. In Islam, opportunity is given to the offenders to repent, to defend themselves and they are punished only after they admit guilt.”

Backlash against the sentence had been severe, with Islamic Renaissance Front director Ahmad Farouk Musa asserting that the country was “regressing to the Middle Ages” with such inhumane and humiliating punishment.

He added: “Although it happened in a state not governed by the Pakatan Harapan federal government, such degrading laws should not be allowed in this country.”

Satiful, however, deems such criticism contempt of court. He said: “What was decided by the judge was based on existing laws. It is a decision of the court and everyone should be able to differentiate between the powers of the government and the courts.”

Criticism over whether the women needed to be caned in the presence of outsiders has also been rife, with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa asserting that this needs to be looked into.

To this, Satiful said that public caning is in line with what the Quran prescribes and said that the Quran states that punishment should be meted out in public for educational purposes.