Days after three Muslim women were whipped for having illicit sex,Malaysian Deputy Premier Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday said religious authorities must explain properly the issue of caning under Sharia law to avoid the punishment from being viewed negatively by local and global communities.
The Deputy Prime Minister said many,including Malaysians,were horrified at the idea of a woman being caned because they did not know how it was executed.
“The caning punishment meted out by the Shariah court is legal and how the international community looks at it,is up to them. But I believe it is important that authorities make an effort to explain the procedure because it is far different from the impression many have,” he said.
“While the caning sentence meted out by civil courts can cause hurt and sometimes even death,caning according to Shariah law is light. It is more to educate and remind Muslims to honour and abide by their religion,” he said after chairing the Cabinet committee on human capital development.
The three women,who were caned on February 9 at a local prison,became the first women in the country to be flogged for committing Shariah offences.
A Shariah court had recently also sentenced a Muslim model,Kartika Shukarno,to be caned for drinking beer in a restaurant in July last year.
The sentence against the 33-year-old,which evoked international media interest,has not yet been executed.
The three women who were caned this month were aged between 18 and mid-20s. Two of them were whipped six times and the third was given four strokes of the rattan cane at Kajang Prison.
Hamidah Marican,Executive Director of an NGO called Sisters in Islam (SIS),said the case of the three women constituted further discrimination against Muslim women in Malaysia.
“It violates Constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination as the whipping of women under Shariah Criminal Offences legislation contradicts civil law where women are not punishable by caning under Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” she was quoted as saying by ‘Star’ online.
Bar Council Chairman Ragunath Kesavan appealed to the government to immediately review and abolish all forms of punishment involving whipping and to comply with international norms and principles on it.