07:49 GMT27 October 2020
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    The two women were engaged in lesbian sex in a car parked in a public place in the northeastern state of Terengganu. Same-sex relations are considered illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where Islamic courts can try Muslim Malays on personal matters alongside civil courts.

    In a rare case against same-sex relations in Malaysia, two local women, aged 32 and 22, have been fined and whipped with a cane for attempting to have lesbian sex, Malaysia-based English-language newspaper The Straits Times reports.

    The two women, who haven't been identified, were caned six times each with their clothes on in a packed room at the Sharia High Court in Kuala Terengganu, the capital city of the conservative northeastern state of Terengganu. The younger woman reportedly burst into tears but her companion showed no reaction.

    In April, a police patrol found the pair trying to engage in sexual acts in a car. They were convicted and charged under Sharia law, which bans lesbian sex. After pleading guilty, the two women also received a fine of 3,300 Malaysian ringgit (roughly $800).

    READ MORE: No Place for Sharia Law in Finland — Justice Minister

    According to a local government official, it was the first conviction for same-sex relations and the first time a caning had been carried out in public in the state.

    The punishment drew sharp condemnation from human rights advocates. According to Reuters, Rachel Chhoa-Howard of Amnesty International blasted it as an "atrocious setback on the government's efforts to improve its human rights records."

    Malaysian women's groups Justice for Sisters and Sisters in Islam excoriated the beating as "a travesty and a grave miscarriage of justice," calling for a review of laws that allowed the caning of women.

    Malaysian Muslims have traditionally promoted a culture of tolerance, but campaigners have been voicing concerns that attitudes toward the LGBT community haven't been supportive recently.

    In August, five men were charged with assaulting a 32-year-old transgender woman in Seremban, a town located 60 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur. Two of them face up to 20 years in prison.

    In May 2017, an LGBT pride march planned in Kuala Lumpur in June was cancelled due to "religious complaints." The event was believed to be nixed amid pressure from pro-Islamist blogs, which expressed anger that it was scheduled to take place during the holy month of Ramadan.

    Malaysia is home to 32 million people; nearly 61 percent of the population is Muslim and the country is also home to Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. The country's dual-track legal system comprises civil courts running in parallel with Islamic courts that can try Muslim Malays on religious and family matters. Homosexual activity is banned in Islam and is considered illegal and punishable in Malaysia.


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    Sharia, Muslim, lesbian, same-sex, Amnesty International, Terengganu, Malaysia
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