Malaysia canes women for having sex out of wedlock

Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:38am EST
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By Niluksi Koswanage

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities have caned three women under Islamic laws for the first time in the Southeast Asian country, the interior minister said on Wednesday.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the sentences were carried out on February 9 after a religious court found them guilty of having sex out of wedlock. Two of the women were whipped six times.

"It was carried out perfectly."" Hishammuddin said in a statement. "Even though the caning did not injure them (the women), they said it caused pain within them."

Hishammuddin's comments signal that the mostly Muslim country is now prepared to flog Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a mother of two, for drinking beer, despite the international criticism that the case has garnered.

That case has put the multi-racial but mostly Muslim country's moderate image under scrutiny at a time when it is trying to draw in investors. Investors in New York last year asked Prime Minister Najib Razak about the Kartika case.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system with Islamic criminal and family laws, which are applicable to Muslims, running alongside civil laws.

Hishammuddin said Kartika's case had flagged concerns about how women should be flogged and that the recent canings demonstrated that the prisons department can carry out punishments in accordance with Shariah (Islamic) law.

Under these laws, the women have to be whipped in a seated position by a female prison guard and be fully clothed.   Continued...