Malaysian women caned for lesbian sex should have been shown compassion: PM Mahathir

Malaysian women caned for lesbian sex should have been shown compassion: PM Mahathir

File photo Mahathir Mohamad
File photo of Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. (Photo: AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi)

KUALA LUMPUR: Compassion and guidance need to be shown towards the two women who were caned earlier this week for having lesbian sex, said Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday (Sep 5).

In a video posted across his social media networks, Dr Mahathir spoke about the caning of the two Muslim women and said the government believed the punishment gave a bad impression of Islam, as it did not show the values of impartiality and empathy of the religion. 

"The Cabinet discussed the case of the two women and is of the view that (their punishment) does not reflect the ideals of justice and compassion of Islam," he said. "As this was the first case for them, they should've been given advice and not punished. 

"The Cabinet is of the opinion that the circumstances of each case should be considered and how we can, under Islam, hand out punishments that are lighter while at the same time give advice and counsel to the parties."

He added: "We need to show that Islam is not a ruthless religion that shames people with harsh punishments." 

His comments came after the women, aged 22 and 32, were caned on Monday for having lesbian sex in a car in a public square in the northern state of Terengganu, one of the country's most conservative areas. 

The act was said to be in violation of strict Islamic laws.

Campaigners said it was the first time that women in Malaysia have been caned for violating a sharia regulation which forbids same-sex relations.

Malaysia operates a dual-track legal system. Islamic courts can handle religious and family matters for Muslim citizens, as well as cases such as adultery.

The punishment sparked a barrage of criticism, with Malaysian rights group Women's Aid Organisation saying it was "outraged and appalled by this grave violation of human rights".

"Sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalised, let alone punished with whipping," it said. 

Amnesty International said it was a "dreadful reminder of the depth of discrimination LGBT people face in the country and a sign that the new government condones the use of inhuman and degrading punishments, much like its predecessor".

Court official Wan Abdul Malik Wan Sidek defended the punishment, saying it was not as tough as caning carried out for numerous crimes under Malaysia's civil law.

Source: CNA/aa