Two Malaysian Muslim women convicted of attempting to have sex in a car have been caned in a public whipping.
Witnesses said the women, aged 22 and 32, were seated on stools facing the judges and given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers.
More than 100 people witnessed the caning in an Islamic court in the northeast state of Terengganu.
The women did not cry or scream but “showed remorse”, said Muslim Lawyers’ Association Deputy President Abdul Rahim Sinwan.
Unlike caning under civil laws, the punishment under Islamic law is not painful or harsh and was meant to educate the women, said Sinwan. “Repentance is the ultimate aim for their sin,” he said.
The two unidentified women were discovered by officials in a parked car in April and sentenced last month to six strokes of a cane and an $800 fine each after pleading guilty.
It was the first conviction for same-sex relations and the first time a caning had been carried out in public in Terengganu, Satiful Bahri Mamat, a member of the state executive council, told the Reuters news agency.
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Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 31 million people are Muslims who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues.
Malaysia religious minister Mujahid Yusuf later said the government does not support the promotion of LGBT culture.
However, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attacked the public caning and said it tarnished Islam’s reputation as a merciful and compassionate religion.
He said in a video on social media that the women could have been given a lighter sentence and counselling as it was their first offence.
Under both religious and secular laws, homosexual activity is illegal but this is the state’s first conviction for same-sex relations and the first public caning.