A Malaysian MP has called for laws that criminalise homosexuality to be axed after the caning of two women convicted by a sharia court of lesbian activity.
Charles Santiago, an MP in the state of Selangor, condemned the state-sanctioned violence at the Terengganu court.
The women in the coastal state south of the Thai border were caned while “100 people gawked at them” in the public gallery of the court, Santiago tweeted.
“We need to stop targeting the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community. We need to stop invading their privacy. We need to stop abusing them. We need to grow up as a society and learn to embrace diversity,” the liberal MP tweeted.
Santiago said the new government was “voted in on the premise of inclusion” and must repeal all laws criminalising homosexuality.
US actor Dirk Blocker urged his fans to shun Malaysian products.
“Boycott Malaysian products until the government there stops torturing people for living their lives,” Blocker tweeted.
In the US sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Blocker plays Hitchcock, an inept New York police officer.
Khairy Jamaluddin, MP for Rembau, also criticised the punishment and tweeted: “Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being.
“Mercy is preferable to punishment.”
Hannah Yeoh, a Segambut MP, said “education doesn’t work this way”.
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable under a colonial-era sodomy law in Malaysia that carries a 20-year jail sentence.
Islamic laws, applying only to Muslims, also prohibit sexual relations between women.
The two women, 22 and 32, caned on Monday were arrested by sharia law enforcement officers in April, after they were allegedly found engaging in sexual acts in a car.
The sharia high court in Terengganu, a state in Malaysia’s conservative northeast, sentenced the two women to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 3,300 ringgit (US$800), after they pleaded guilty to the charges.
Human rights activists said it was the first time two women had been publicly caned in Malaysia for same-sex relations.
Malaysian civil law prohibits the caning of women but it is permitted under Islamic law in some states that have adopted sharia laws. The Terengganu authorities claimed the punishment was justified.
“It is more to educate than to harm or hurt,” Satiful Bahri Mamat, a member of the Terengganu state executive council, told the media after the caning. “I believe we may have received harsher canings when we were in school.”
Caning in public was intended to serve as a “lesson for society”, he said.
Terengganu. Picture credit: Wikimedia