Metro Weekly

Malaysian court postpones caning of two lesbian women

Activists argue that caning is cruel and inhuman punishment, and violates international treaties

Pudu Prison in Kuala Lumpur — Photo: mailer_diablo, via Wikimedia.

Earlier this week, a Malaysian religious court postponed carrying out a caning sentence on two women who were convicted for having lesbian sex.

The two women pleaded guilty to charges that they violated Shariah law, which prohibits homosexuality. On Aug. 12, they were sentenced to a fine and six strokes of the cane, which was scheduled to be carried out on Tuesday, reports Reuters.

Humans rights groups have decried the sentence as a form of torture.

But on Tuesday, the Shariah High Court in Terengganu announced that the caning would be postponed to Sept. 3 due to “technical reasons,” according to The Star.

Amnesty International Malaysia praised the postponement, but said it was insufficient, and that the caning must be stopped altogether.

“A delay is obviously not enough,” Gwen Lee, the organization’s interim executive director, said in a statement. “Both women must now have their sentences quashed immediately and unconditionally to reverse this injustice once and for all.”

Above all, Amnesty International has said the caning sentence violates international treaties on human rights.

“The decision to subject two people to physical punishment simply for having same-sex relations has rightly attracted a chorus of condemnation from across the world,” Lee added. “If the Malaysian government is serious about increasing its ratification of international treaties, as it has stated, it must end the use of caning and repeal laws that impose these torturous punishments completely.”

Human Rights Watch noted that the punishment handed down against the women violates Malaysia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In March 2018, the CEDAW Committee urged Malaysia to “amend all laws which discriminate against LBTI women, including the provisions of the Penal Code and Shariah laws that criminalize same-sex relations between women and cross-dressing,” and “to prohibit the whipping of women as a form of punishment.”

Graeme Reid, the director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, also characterized caning as cruel and inhuman punishment. 

“Malaysia’s new government should stand against discrimination and brutality and foster a culture of tolerance and equality,” Reid said. “As part of that effort, it should seek to abolish all laws against same-sex conduct and end the cruel practice of caning once and for all.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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