KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Two women’s rights groups have slammed the Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court for publicly caning two women today, accusing the punishment as “a travesty and a grave miscarriage of justice”.
Justice for Sisters and Sisters in Islam said the punishment can only be done against prisoners, but the duo were not imprisoned after they were charged and found guilty of attempting to have lesbian sex.
“Prison Act 1955 and Prison Regulations 2000 stipulates that caning can only be carried out against prisoners. As the sentences of the two women did not include imprisonment, they were not considered prisoners as defined by the Prison Act and Prison Regulations.
“This, despite the fact that they were sentenced to caning. The Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court and Malaysian Prisons Department therefore may have acted against the law in its execution today,” they said in a joint statement.
They also pointed out that Malaysia’s laws are inconsistent when it comes to caning women, with Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibiting corporal punishment against female prisoners but the same punishment is allowed under Shariah laws.
These inconsistencies create confusion in the jurisdiction of the Prisons Department thus directly affecting the rights of women in Malaysia protected by Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution against gender discrimination,” they said.
The groups also questioned Putrajaya’s involvement in the events, since it was carried out by an officer from the Prisons Department under the Home Ministry.
“Questions are raised on why the execution was authorised and officers from the department appointed to carry out the sentence,” they said.
The two women were punished by six strokes of the cane individually by a female caning officer from the Kajang Prison, under Sections s30 and 59(1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (Takzir) (Terengganu) 2001.
Around 100 people witnessed the punishment in the court room, including public onlookers, government agencies’ representatives, and NGO members.