The planned caning of two women in Malaysia for homosexual behavior may aggravate the already unsafe environment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of the country, according to human rights activists.
The conviction is "the latest blow to the LGBT community in Malaysia, which had hoped for better protection under the new government of the country," said Graeme Reid, director of Human Rights Watch's LGBTQ rights program, in a statement made shared with NBC News. "This persecution and punishment will only feed the recent wave of homophobia and transphobia in Malaysia."
Earlier this month, the two women, aged 22 and 32, pleaded guilty of violating Islamic Sharia laws that ban lesbian sex – known as musahaqah – and were sentenced to six battles and a 3,300 ringgit ($ 806), according to the Malaysian newspaper Sinar Harian. Human Rights Watch said the caning is planned for August 28.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations call on Malaysia to ban the punishment of cannabis, which they claim violates international human rights law.
"The new government of Malaysia must oppose discrimination and brutality and promote a culture of tolerance and equality," said Reid. "As part of that effort, it should try to abolish all laws against the same sexual behavior and put an end to the cruel practice of caning once and for all."
The LGBTQ community is routinely persecuted in Malaysia with a Muslim minority, where it is seen as a threat to conservative values, and activists say that intolerance towards sexual and gender minorities has increased in the country in recent years.
This month, the authorities removed portraits from two LGBTQ activists from a public photo exhibition in which they said they were promoting LGBTQ activities. In February, an article in the Malaysian newspaper about identifying LGBTQ people led to outrage on social media.
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