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Caning is legal, says Amanah women chief

Caning is legal, says Amanah women chief

Authorities in Malaysia's north-eastern state of Terengganu on Monday caned two women for attempting to have sex.

"Caning is a form of torture, and to inflict this brutal punishment publicly on two people for engaging in consensual, same-sex relations sends Malaysia back to the Dark Ages", Gwen Lee, interim executive director for Amnesty International Malaysia, said in a statement.

The Muslim women, aged 22 and 32, were each caned six times in the Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu.

Around 100 people witnessed the punishment in the courtroom, including public onlookers, government agencies' representatives, and NGO members.

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, Islamic courts handle the religious and family matters of Muslim citizens.

They were caned at the Sharia High Court in the state capital Kuala Terengganu.

They had last month pleaded guilty to breaking Islamic laws and were sentenced to be caned and fined RM3,300 ($800, £619).

According to The Star, caning under Islamic law is not similar to caning carried out for crimes under civil law.

Meanwhile, Terengganu Bar Council chairman Sallehudin Harun, who also represented the Bar Council, said he would prepare a short report on the caning and present it to the council.

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The caning "occurred amid a climate of fear and discrimination against Malaysia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community", says the Associated Press, and drew criticism from LGBT and human rights activists.

She said Malaysia has accepted a dual legal system and all parties should respect the decision.

"Sharia criminal procedure allows the court to determine where the sentence will be carried out, and requires that it must be witnessed by a number of other Muslims", he said.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the MP for Rembau, criticised the punishment on his Twitter account, saying: "Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being".

Human rights organizations have condemned both the use of caning as a punishment and the fact that someone's sexual preference could be treated as a crime.

But, she continued: "As long as draconian legislation which criminalises Malaysians based on their sexual orientation and gender identity remains on the books, LGBTI people will continue to be at risk of this type of punishment".

Santiago said the government was "voted in on the premise of inclusion" and must therefore repeal all laws criminalising homosexuality without delay.

The Islamic affairs minister has spoken out against homosexuals and ordered pictures of LGBT activists to be removed from a public exhibition, while a transgender woman was brutally attacked in the southern state of Negeri Sembilan.

Malaysia's Muslims have generally been seen as moderate but there are concerns the community is becoming more conservative.

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