Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Malaysian leader denounces lesbian caning

Reuters, KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday denounced the caning of two Muslim women for attempting lesbian sex, a sentence that sparked outrage and raised fears about the treatment of the LGBT community.

The women had pleaded guilty to charges under Islamic laws forbidding lesbian sex. They were caned on Monday in front of dozens of people at a Sharia court in Terengganu, prompting an outcry from human rights activists.

Mahathir’s government has appeared divided about LGBT issues, while the prime minister had been silent on the caning and attacks on transgender people and marginalized groups.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mahathir said the caning “did not reflect the justice or compassion of Islam.”

It was the women’s first offense, which warranted a lighter sentence, such as counseling, he said.

“This gives a bad impression of Islam,” the 93-year-old leader said. “It is important that we show Islam is not a cruel religion that likes to impose harsh sentences to humiliate others.”

The caning followed a series of incidents that civil rights groups say illustrate growing hostility against LGBT people.

Last month, a gay bar in Kuala Lumpur was raided by police and religious enforcement officials, while a transgender woman was beaten up by a group of assailants in Seremban.

The minister in charge of Islamic affairs also came under fire after he ordered the removal of portraits of two LGBT activists from an art exhibition.

Malaysia describes oral and anal sex as against the order of nature. Civil law stipulates jail for up to 20 years, caning and fines for offenders, although enforcement of the law is rare.

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