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Caning of gay people must end, rights group tell Malaysia

Sofia Lotto Persio August 22, 2018
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Protesters raise placards during a protest outside a corridor Mosque in Shah Alam near Kuala Lumpur on November 4, 2011. The demonstration was to urge the goverment to give recognition to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. AFP PHOTO/MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)

An LGBT+ protest in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur (MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty)

Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Malaysian authorities to ban the punishment of caning following the sentencing of a lesbian couple for same-sex relations.

The two women were sentenced on August 12 to six strokes of cane each and a fine equivalent to £600 in the state of Terengganu, which criminalises sexual relations between women.

Should the corporal punishment be carried out as scheduled on August 28, it would mark the first time two women have been caned for same-sex relations in the state, local media reported.

Police block Malaysian Muslim students holding placards during a protest against the US glam rocker Adam Lambert’s concert in Bukit Jalil, outside Kuala Lumpur, on October 14, 2010 (AFP/AFP/Getty)

The sentence came amid a series of homophobic and  transphobic statements from members of Malaysia’s new government, which was elected into power in May defeating the ruling coalition led by disgraced prime minister Najib Razak, who too was against the recognition of LGBT+ rights in the country.

“The scheduled caning of two women is the latest blow to Malaysia’s LGBT community, which had hoped for better protection under the country’s new government,” said Graeme Reid, director of HRW lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights programme, said in a statement from the organisation.

The statement also called on the Malaysian government to drop the case against the lesbian couple, noting that Caning constitutes torture under international human rights law.

Malaysia’s new prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad promised his government would be “certainly better” than the previous administration, but the desire to improve the country’s situation does not seem to encompass LGBT+ rights. The country has a law criminalising gay sex, a relic of British colonial rule which has yet to be repealed.

Malaysia’s only openly gay pastor Reverend Ouyang Wen Feng (L) and his partner Phineas Newborn III kiss during their wedding ceremony as they are married on August 31, 2011 in New York (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

Earlier in August, religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa ordered an arts festival to remove portraits of local LGBT+ activists. Last weekend, police raided a gay bar in the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, which authorities have said was carried out to “mitigate the LGBT culture from spreading into our society.

According to HRW’s Reid, the caning would add to the climate of anti-LGBT sentiment. “This prosecution and punishment will only fuel the recent wave of homophobia and transphobia in Malaysia,” he said.

“Malaysia’s new government should stand against discrimination and brutality and foster a culture of tolerance and equality,” he added, calling on the country to “abolish all laws against same-sex conduct and end the cruel practice of caning once and for all.”

Related topics: Asia, human rights watch, LGBT rights, Malaysia, Malaysia, public caning

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