Published: 2018-09-06 18:23
Last Updated: 2018-09-09 10:03
After two Muslim women in Malaysia were caned in public on Monday for trying to have lesbian sex, the conservative country’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, denounced the severe punishment, which human rights activists described as torture.
In a video posted on Mohamad’s official Twitter account on Thursday, the premier said that the caning “did not reflect the justice or compassion of Islam.”
“This gives a bad impression of Islam,” the 93-year-old leader said. “It is important that we show Islam is not a cruel religion that likes to impose harsh sentences to humiliate others.”
The women pleaded guilty to the charges against them, which, under strict Islamic laws, forbid them from having lesbian sex.
The caning took place in front of dozens of people at a sharia court in Terengganu, spreading fear amongst members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community following the shocking incident.
Mohamad’s government appears to be divided about the LGBT community - which is seen as a “threat” to the country’s conservative values - since the premier “was silent on the caning and recent attacks on transgender people and marginalized groups in the Muslim-majority country,” according to Arab News.
In recent weeks, a series of anti-LGBT incidents have taken place in Malaysia.
A gay bar in Kuala Lumpur was raided by police and religious enforcement officials last month, while a group of assailants beat up a transgender woman in Seremban, near the capital.
Those found guilty of having oral and anal sex, which Malaysia says go against the order of nature, could be jailed for up to 20 years, caned and and fined, according to the country’s civil law. However, this section of the law is rarely enforced.