With lesbians sentenced to whipping, women’s groups want Shariah criminal laws repealed

Caning is one of the punishments mentioned for attempted sexual relations between women under Shariah law— Bernama pic
Caning is one of the punishments mentioned for attempted sexual relations between women under Shariah law— Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 — Women’s groups urged the government to abolish Shariah criminal legislation, as two women are scheduled to be whipped in the Terengganu shariah court tomorrow for trying to have sex.

In a memorandum to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Attorney General Tommy Thomas, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) also said the sentencing of the two women violated the right to equality under Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, as a woman cannot be whipped under federal law but she can under state shariah law.

“In the long term, we urge the government to conduct a comprehensive review of the Shariah Criminal Offences laws of this country, with a view to repeal such laws, thus enabling all Malaysians to be governed by a single Penal Code under federal administration,” JAG said in their memorandum.

“In 2005, Sisters in Islam, a member of JAG submitted a memorandum to the government to reiterate its call for the Shariah Criminal Offences laws to be repealed on the grounds that they have no basis in Islamic legal theory and practice; they conflict with the Federal Constitution and that they conflict or overlap with the Penal Code and other federal laws,” the coalition added.

JAG urged the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to “once and for all” deal with the implications of “such intrusive” moral policing laws.

Shariah matters are under state jurisdiction. PAS won Terengganu in the 2018 election, without a single PH representative in the state legislative assembly.

Two women pleaded guilty on August 12 to attempted musahaqah (sexual relations between women) under Section 30 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Takzir) (Terengganu) Enactment 2001. They were sentenced to RM3,300 in fines and given the maximum sentence of six strokes of caning.

“Daily, thousands of Muslims violate the Shariah law which forbids for example, alcohol consumption, zina (adultery), gambling, incest and prostitution. And yet, these two women are victimised with the maximum punishment to set an example to others,” said JAG.

JAG said it believed the “harsh” judgment was related to the rise of hate crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, highlighting the recent case of a trans woman who was badly beaten up by eight men in Negri Sembilan.

“The LGBT are a convenient target to ramp up the Islamic conservative sentiments,” said JAG.

“It should be noted that the LGBT are a small community in Malaysia, and deserve the right to live safely and be free from persecution.”

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