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Two Malaysian Women Publicly Caned for Same-Sex Relationship

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LGBTQ people around the world are still targets of abuse and discrimination. We need more leaders to stand up for inclusion. Global Citizen works to promote diversity, acceptance, and tolerance for all. You can join us in taking action here.

Human rights advocates and politicians are standing up against Malaysia's strict homosexuality laws after two Muslim women were caned Monday for same-sex relations. 

The two unidentified women, ages 22 and 32, were arrested by Islamic officials in April, after they were caught engaging in sexual activity in a car. They pleaded guilty, were punished with a 3,300 Malaysian Ringgit fine, and sentenced to caning, BBC reports

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Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia under colonial sodomy law and can warrant a 20-year prison sentence. This was reportedly the state’s first public caning and conviction for same-sex relations. 

Islamic laws have become stronger and stricter in Malaysia recently. In the country Muslims must follow Islamic law while those with other religious beliefs abide by civil law. Under Malaysian civil law, caning women is illegal but allowed in some states that enforce sharia religious laws. The Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu caned the women six times in front of 100 people. 

The Malaysian group Women’s Aid Organization said it was “appalled by this grave violation of human rights,” according to Reuters. "Sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalised, let alone punished with whipping."

Politicians weren’t shy about voicing their objections, either. Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament representing Klang, called for laws that end the criminalization of homsexuality on social media. Khairy Jamaluddin, Rembau’s Member of Parliament, tried to spread Islam’s tolerant values. 

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Syariah High Court Judge Kamalruazmi Ismail said caning under Islamic law is not meant to cause pain, but to serve as a lesson, according to The Star

Malaysia’s LGBTQ community needs advocates to help protect their safety as the government poses a serious threat to their well-being. In August alone, a minister had portraits of LGBTQ activists removed from a public exhibit, a transgender woman was violently attacked, and 20 men were charged for ‘illicit behavior’ during a gay club raid.