Women’s rights groups slam caning of Malaysian Muslim women

Women’s rights groups last month slammed a recent announcement that the Malaysian government has caned three Muslim women for having sex outside of marriage. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the trio, who were whipped at a local prison on February 9, were the first women to receive the punishments under the country’s Islamic sharia law.

The caning has sparked outrage from rights groups, who say that the caning discriminates against women. No information was released on the fate of the men involved in the alleged sexual affairs.

“This is sending a message to women, it’s disrespecting women,” said Ivy Josiah, executive director of advocacy group, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

“We are completely flabbergasted and mortified. And we are really angry,” she told the German News Agency dpa.

“The WAO categorically does not condone corporal punishment, but the fact that three women have been whipped, this is a form of state violence against women,” said Ivy.

She said several rights and women’s groups would be meeting later Thursday to decide on the course of action against the government’s move.

Sisters In Islam, a Muslim rights group, has also slammed the caning as a form of discrimination.

“It violates constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination, as whipping of women under Shariah Criminal Offences legislation contradicts civil law where women are not punishable by caning,” said the movement’s executive director Hamidah Marican in a statement.

She said the delayed announcement of the whipping also implied that the government “wanted to hide this degrading and unjust treatment from public scrutiny,” Hamidah said.

Two of the three women where whipped six times, while the third was given four strokes of the cane. The women’s identities have not been released.

The government’s surprising announcement has reignited attention to the caning of a 33-year-old woman who was sentenced to be whipped last year for drinking beer.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a mother of two, is waiting for her sentencing to be carried out but government officials have kept mum on the exact date.

Kartika’s case had sparked outrage, with rights groups saying the move would undermine government efforts to portray the country as moderate.

Hishammuddin said he decided to bring to public attention the recent whipping of the three women punishment as he believed there was “too much hype” over Kartika’s sentence.

“People are saying that no woman has been caned before and that Kartika should not be caned.

“I am announcing that we have already done it,” said Hishammuddin.

Hishammuddin said all three women did not suffer any cuts or bruises following the caning.

“They have all repented. They are also hoping that others will not go against the teachings of the religion,” he said.

Kartika’s case had sparked concerns that conservative and hardline Islamists are gaining influence over the justice system of this country where more than half of its 28-million-population are Muslims.

“The darker, menacing message here is that this is the beginning of the state controlling all aspects of our lives. That is frightening,” WAO’s Ivy said.


See also: Caning is against federal constitution


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