Asia Pacific

Malaysia Islamic court postpones caning of women for lesbian sex

AFP-JIJI

A Malaysian Islamic court Tuesday postponed the caning of two women convicted of lesbian sex as activists hoped it would give them time to stop the punishment being carried out.

The women, aged 22 and 32, were arrested in April by Islamic enforcement officers after they were found in a car in a public square in northern Terengganu state, one of the most conservative areas of the Muslim-majority country.

They were brought before an Islamic court and admitted to breaking an Islamic law — Sharia — that forbids sexual relations between women and sentenced to six strokes of the cane each and fined 3,300 ringgit ($800).

The sentence was to be carried out Tuesday but Terengganu Sharia Court chief registrar Wan Abdul Malik Wan Sidek told AFP it had been moved to September 3 for “technical reasons.”

He did not give details but The Star newspaper quoted another court official as saying that since a few agencies would be involved in carrying out the sentence, technical issues needed to be resolved first.

Both women are out on bail.

Members of Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have been facing rising pressure in the largely Islamic country, with public officials frequently accused of targeting them.

Transgender rights group Justice for Sisters co-founder Thilaga Sulathireh hoped the postponement would give activists time to try to stop the punishment from being carried out.

“There is a bit more time now … (to) have more conversations about this and see if these conversations can add any kind of pressure or change people’s mind about the sentence itself,” she said.

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

Caning is conducted out of public view.

Malaysian Muslims which make up more than 60 percent of the country’s 32 million population have traditionally practiced a tolerant brand of Islam, but concerns have grown in recent years that attitudes are becoming more conservative.