Two women in Malaysia have been sentenced to six lashings each after being arrested for having sex with each other.
They have also been fined RM3,300 (£630) each, and told that they will face a four-month prison term if they fail to pay.
The sentence was handed down as Malaysia is embroiled in an argument about LGBT+ rights, sparked by government minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s “demonising” order to an arts festival to remove its portraits of local queer activists.Gay sex is banned in the country, which groups it together with bestiality in a list of offences which are “against the order of nature.”
The women, who are 32 and 22, pleaded guilty after sharia enforcement officials in the northeastern state of Terengganu found them having sex in a car with a dildo, according to local news outlet Sinar Harian.
They are set to be caned on August 28.
Judge Kamalruazmi Ismail told the women that “adequate punishment must be meted out so that this becomes a lesson and reminder to not just the two of you, but to members of society.”
Justice For Sisters (JFS), a Malaysian LGBT+ rights group, called the punishment “a gross violation” of the women’s “dignity and human rights.”
In a statement on the grassroots organisation’s blog, it added that “the erroneous and prejudicial sentence… amounts to torture.”
It was against Malaysian and international law to impose such a sentence, the group argued.
“The role of the court is to ensure justice is served and upheld, not to increase victimisation of persons based on personal prejudice,” the statement said.
“Punishment cannot be used as lessons for society. Punishment as a means to serve as lessons for others unfairly exploits and burdens the individuals with severe punishments as stand-ins for others.
“Such prejudicial thinking can dangerously allow for the abuse of power and exploitation of innocent people, perpetuating injustices.”
JFS continued: “Criminalisation of consensual sex between adults is a gross violation of human rights, and Malaysia has been called to review and repeal laws that criminalise LGBTQ persons based on consensual sexual acts in many international human rights forums.
“Consensual sex acts between adults is not a crime.”
Last year in Indonesia, a gay couple was sentenced to 83 lashes each as a legal punishment for having sex.
And in April, a Malaysian university held a contest to convert gay students.
The Universiti Sains Malaysia, based on the island of Penang, advertised the competition as “a campaign to invite friends who have [a] disorder in [their] sexual orientation to return to their natural nature in a worthwhile way.”
This came just two months after a newspaper in the country published a checklist which provided guidance about “how to spot a gay”.