Civil rights NGOs: Sentencing of five men for unnatural sex shows increasing hostility towards LGBTQ individuals

Jerry Choong
The group reminded the Selangor Syariah High Court which passed the sentence that sexual conduct between consenting adults is not a crime, and that LGBT individuals are not criminals. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 — Civil rights groups today said the recent sentencing of five men to canings and fines for attempted sexual intercourse against the order of nature is an indicator of growing hostility towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers (LGBTQ) in the country.

A group of 28 progressive civil rights organisations and political parties including Tenaganita, All Women’s Action Society, and Parti Sosialis Malaysia collectively condemned yesterday's sentencing.

“The alarming trend of prosecution of persons on the basis of attempted sexual intercourse 'against the order of nature', liwat or musahaqah (sodomy and lesbianism) and the heavy-handed punishment as a method to teach others as a cautionary tale or as deterrence is a cause of concern,” the group said in a joint statement.

It reminded the Selangor Syariah High Court which passed the sentence that sexual conduct between consenting adults is not a crime, and that LGBT individuals are not criminals.

“Private and consensual sexual acts between adults must not be anyone’s concern. We also condemn the act of tajassus, or spying by the religious authorities, for the purpose to persecute the five men,” they said.

The group noted that the case's presiding Shariah judge Mohamad Asri Mohamad Tahir made numerous prejudiced remarks unrelated to the facts in issue.

“The judge’s decision should not be based on impact on society, as these impacts are entirely assumed, imagined and exaggerated. However, society’s discriminatory laws have a severe impact on LGBT people’s access to justice.

“The court’s excessive punitive measures also has an impact on these men’s livelihood, job security, and responsibilities to their families, among other things. The judge was insistent on imprisonment in order to rehabilitate them and to isolate them from 'others and their environment' as a preventative measure,” they said.

Other remarks made by Mohamad Asri included stating that people “like them” are difficult to control and must be segregated led the group to conclude that such extremely prejudicial sentiments resulted in unjust sentencing for the five.

“The state has a duty to protect and promote the human rights and dignity of all people, including people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and end all forms of discrimination, marginalisation and victimisation.

“LGBTQ and people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression have suffered enough discrimination and violence from the state and non-state actors alike.  It is time for the state to end all discrimination and violence against LGBTQ persons,” said the group.

Meanwhile Social health organisation Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy urged the Selangor Syariah High Court to stay the implementation of the sentence and review the suitability of judicial caning as a form of punishment, referring to it as “cruel and unusual”.

Its programme officer Dorian Wilde reiterated that caning is a form of torture as classified by the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

“Besides the physical pain inflicted, the long-term consequences of judicial caning must also be considered. Studies have shown that victims of caning are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression,” he said in a statement.

Adding that the five are already facing intense public shaming due to the nature of the charges, Wilde said caning them is an additional traumatic experience meant to invoke further shame and humiliation.

“We also call for a moratorium of judicial caning as a form of punishment in both the civil and syariah justice system, in our view that medical practitioners should not be sanctioning or facilitating the practice of judicial caning.

“They must instead come out strongly against such an unethical practice. The main duty of a doctor is to first do no harm, to which caning goes directly against this humanitarian principle,” he said.

The five were convicted under Sections 52 and 28 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1995. Four of them aged 27 to 37 were fined RM4,800, six months imprisonment and six strokes of the cane.

Another 42-year old man was sentenced to seven month's imprisonment, an RM4,900 fine, and six strokes of the cane. All five were accused of attempting to conduct sexual relations with one or more men in an apartment at Bandar Baru Bangi, around 9.30pm on November 9 last year.

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