Four Malaysian men caned for gay sex under Islamic law

KUALA LUMPUR • Four Malaysian men have been caned for having gay sex in violation of Islamic laws, with activists yesterday condemning "vicious punishments" they said highlighted a crackdown on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Rights group say there is a worsening climate for gays in the Muslim-majority country, where the authorities have maintained a colonial-era ban on sodomy and mete out harsh physical punishments for same-sex relations.

The men, aged 26 to 37, received six strokes of the cane each in a prison outside Kuala Lumpur on Monday for attempting "intercourse against the order of nature", an offence under syariah law, Amnesty International said. They admitted committing the offence in an apartment last year, with an Islamic court also fining the men and sentencing them to jail terms of up to seven months each.

Religious authorities found out about the private event by monitoring messages between the men, and then sent a raiding party to detain them, according to Amnesty.

A fifth man convicted with the others was not caned as he is appealing against the punishment, while a further six men arrested in the raid are still facing charges.

"These vicious punishments... are the actual crimes being committed here," said Ms Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Amnesty's Malaysia executive director. "Malaysia should be creating an environment in which LGBT people are free from discrimination, not ensnaring and beating innocent people."

Gay rights activist Numan Afifi, who has been following the case, confirmed the men were caned.

Agence France-Presse could not immediately contact court officials or the men's lawyers.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with syariah courts handling some cases for Muslim citizens. Sodomy is a crime under the country's regular criminal code as well as under Islamic law.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2019, with the headline 'Four Malaysian men caned for gay sex under Islamic law'. Print Edition | Subscribe