Malaysia human rights group denounces caning sentence on 2 women for attempting lesbian sex

File photo of a woman being publicly caned by syariah police in Acheh, north Sumatra, on July 13, 2018.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has denounced the Terengganu Syariah Court's decision on August 12 to sentence two women to six strokes of caning each for attempted lesbian relations because such punishment is humiliating and demeaning.

"Such punishment is humiliating, demeaning and an attempt to publicly embarrass the women and their families, which is against the fundamental notion of human dignity, not dissimilar to the commitment to dignity which is imbued in all religions," said Suhakam in a statement.

"Suhakam reiterates that caning in any setting violates the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment under international law.

"The interpretation of punishment in religion applied historically cannot ignore evolutions of society and standards, as well as the inexorable passage of civilisation," it added.

Suhakam also urged the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community to "exercise temperance and moderation", and to keep their lifestyles private in "a society that is only beginning to take into account diversified choices".

"Suhakam understands that this position is less than ideal, but necessary in the religious and cultural context of Malaysia," said Suhakam.