Pacific News Mintue: Caning of Two Women Latest Sign of Homophobic Intolerance in Malaysia

Sep 6, 2018

Syariah Court building in Malaysia's Malacca State. The Syariah Courts have jurisdiction only over Muslim in the matters of family law and religious observances, and can generally only pass sentences of not more than three years imprisonment, a fine of up to RM5,000, and/or up to six strokes of the cane.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Two women were publicly caned in a Sharia court in Malaysia this week, the latest in a series of homophobic incidents there.

A hundred people at the Sharia High Court watched as a female prison officer whipped two women six times with a rattan cane.  Earlier, they had confessed to sexual relations between women, a crime in Malaysia. Human rights groups said the crime, was the caning, which they called torture.

Last month, a trans woman was beaten in front of a crowd in a town south of the capital, an attack that left her with broken ribs, a broken backbone, and a ruptured spleen.

Hannah Ellis Peterson, Southeast Asia Correspondent of the Guardian also reported on a raid on a gay nightclub in Kuala Lumpur. She wrote that authorities had tolerated the Blue Boy for many years until religious police arrested twenty men last month who were then ordered into counseling for “illicit behavior.”

The election of a more liberal government earlier this year had prompted hopes of greater acceptance of LGBT rights in Malaysia. When he was the leader of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim was thrown into prison twice on sodomy charges. He’s now widely expected to be Malaysia’s next Prime Minister. The Guardian report said that opposition politicians whipped up anti-LGBT rhetoric to force the new government to take an unpopular stance; the new government responded, by being more homophobic.

Officials who conducted this week’s caning said it had to be carried out in public to serve as a lesson; a rights group called the Women’s Aid Organization said, “sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalized, let alone punished with whipping.”

For Hawaii Public Radio, this is Neal Conan, with the Pacific News Minute.