A WOMAN in Malaysia’s conservative state of Terengganu faces caning after being caught for prostitution, barely a month after the Syariah court carried out the unprecedented sentence on two other females for attempting lesbian sex.
According to The Star, the 30-year-old divorcee had pleaded guilty at the Syariah High Court for preparing to offer sexual services at a hotel.
For the violation, listed under the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 2001, the woman should be sentenced up to three years in prison or be fined up to RM5,000 (US$1,250) or be caned up to six times, or any combination of the punishment.
Religious enforcers, in their statement of facts, said the woman was wearing a sleeveless nightgown when she was caught with a man — who was not her husband — in a hotel room when the place was raided by the Terengganu Religious Affairs department close to midnight on Sept 17.
The woman is said to have charged between RM300 (US$75) and RM3,000 (US$750), but her client that night had only given her RM100 (US$25).
Enforcers also confiscated underwear, condoms, lubricant and a mobile phone, among other items.
The court’s Judge Rosdi Harun, had offered a chance for the woman, a single mother of a seven-year-old daughter, to plead for a lighter sentence as she could not afford the fine.
The woman told the court that her former husband had failed to pay alimony or provide any financial support since she divorced seven years ago.
While awaiting her sentence due this Thursday, the woman was released on RM3,000 (US$750) bail.
Earlier this month, two women convicted of attempting lesbian sex were caned in court, sparking outrage among activists and civil society groups.
The caning sentences on the women, aged 32 and 22, were carried out before some 100 people at the Syariah High Court in Terengganu, a state led by orthodox Islamic opposition party PAS.
The sentencing comes amid polarising public debates over the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community and the rise of Islamist conservatism in the Muslim-majority country.
Activists said it was the first time women in the Muslim-majority country have been caned for violating a Syariah regulation forbidding same-sex relations. They said the case highlights the worsening climate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) people in the Southeast Asian country.
The Syariah court sentenced them to a fine and six lashings of the cane.
Despite the outcry, Satiful Bahri Mamat, a member of the Terengganu state executive council, told the media earlier this month that the punishment was “not intended to torture or injure”
However, women’s rights group Sisters in Islam said remarks by authorities that caning is not intended to cause pain or harm the women is in “direct contradiction” to the degree of humiliation the two women faced from the orchestrated spectacle, and the resulting psychological and emotional impact.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad denounced the caning of the two women, adding his voice to growing criticism on the implementation of strict Islamic laws in the opposition-controlled state.
“This gives a bad image of Islam and we believe that if there are similar cases like this we need to consider giving lighter punishments,” he said.
“It is crucial we show Islam is not a cruel religion… that humiliates people.”