Anwar calls out caning of lesbian couple during visit to Philippines

Members of Nepal's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community prepare for a gay pride parade in Kathmandu

Authorities in Malaysia's north-eastern state of Terengganu on Monday caned two women for attempting to have sex.

Human rights groups said it was the first time women have been caned in Malaysia for engaging in homosexual relations.

The women, aged 32 and 22, were given six strokes from a light rattan cane on their backs by female prison officers at the Sharia High Court in Kuala Terengganu in front of about 100 people.

The women's rights coalition Joint Action Group for Gender Equality had previously highlighted that there is no consensus nationwide on the range of crimes where caning is prescribed, listing Terengganu, the Federal Territories, Johor, Penang and Sarawak as the only states and areas with caning named as the penalty for same-sex sexual relations under their Syariah Criminal Offences Enactments.

The country operates a dual-track legal system. The state's Sharia high court sentenced them August 12 to six strokes of a cane for "sexual relations between women" and fined them the equivalent of about $800.

Lee also spoke out generally on Malaysia's use of caning, stating it "must end the use of caning and repeal the laws that impose these torturous punishments completely".

The women, who were dressed in white, didn't cry or scream but "showed remorse", he said.

"Under global human rights law, corporal punishment constitutes a form of torture", Varughese said in a statement calling for an immediate moratorium on all forms of corporal punishment.

They were sentenced to a fine and six lashings of the cane.

Thilaga Sulathireh, from the group Justice for Sisters, who witnessed the ordeal, was concerned about the safety, privacy, harassment, humiliation and trauma of the women.

The case has not only prompted outrage among rights organizations, it has also cast a spotlight on what activists say is an increasing climate of hostility and discrimination against the LGBT community in Malaysia. It's not about the severity of the caning.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the MP for Rembau, criticised the punishment on his Twitter account, saying: "Islam teaches us to look after the dignity of every human being". "Corporal punishment is a form of torture regardless of your intention", she said.

But Anwar said there was nothing the Pakatan Harapan government could do as Islamic laws come under state jurisdiction.

"Sexual acts between two consenting adults should not be criminalised, let alone punished with whipping".

The country, whose population is around 60 percent Muslim, has seen a recent rise in Islamic conservativism, with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia regularly subjected to discrimination and hostility.

Earlier last month, a minister ordered that portraits of LGBT activists be removed from a public exhibition.

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