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Two women in Malaysia have been convicted for attempting to have lesbian sex. They will be fined and caned, on Tuesday, in a rare case against gay people in the Muslim-majority country.
Islamic enforcement officers in the conservative North Eastern state of Terengganu found the two Muslim women attempting to engage in sexual acts in a car during a patrol in April, according to prosecutor Muhamad Khasmizan Abdullah.
The women were charged under the Islamic sharia law known as musahaqah – which bans lesbian sex – and sentenced to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 3,300 Malaysian ringgit ($806) each this week after pleading guilty, the prosecutor said.
The conviction comes amid concerns around growing intolerance toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia after activists criticised some officials for making homophobic remarks in recent weeks.
Read here about Malaysia’s dismal track record at LGBT rights.
“Sexual intercourse between people of the same sex is forbidden in Islam. It is an offence and morally wrong,” said Muhamad Khasmizan.
“This verdict is a first for us,” the prosecutor added. He said it was the first time convictions were passed for same-sex relations in Terengganu.
Muslims And Sharia In Malaysia
Malaysia is home to 32 million people, where ethnic Malay Muslims make up more than 60 percent of the population and the remaining ethnic minorities practice other religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. It has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims running alongside civil laws.
The two women, aged 32 and 22, are on bail pending the execution of the sentence on August 28. The religious officers who saw the women found one in a state of undress, and also discovered a dildo in the car.
“The caning would take place within the court premise,” he said. “Under the sharia rules, the seated women will be whipped on their backs with a rattan cane.”
Thilaga Sulathireh from rights group Justice for Sisters condemned the court’s decision as a form of torture. Previous cases of lesbian couples arrests exist, but rarely see convictions.
“Consensual sex between adults is not a crime. This is a precedence and it will increase discrimination toward LGBT people,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A minister last week ordered the removal of portraits of two LGBT advocates from a public photography exhibition. He said they promoted gay activities, sparking criticism from rights groups.
Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, which is punishable by up to 20 years in jail. Although enforcement of this law is rare.
By: Delshad Master