Malaysian Court Upholds Woman’s Caning

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA– An Islamic court of appeals in Malaysia on Monday upheld the sentence of six strokes of the cane which will be given to a Muslim woman.  She was caught drinking beer in public at a resort.  She was caught by Islamic enforcement officers.

The significance of this ruling means that the woman, Kartika Sari Dewo Shukarno, a former model and nurse and a 32-year old mother of two, is set to become the first woman to be caned under the country’s religious laws that apply only to Muslims. Analysts have stated that the government fears that the punishment could damage Malaysia’s reputation abroad.  Malaysia uses a two-track legal system; where the majority Malays are subject to Islamic law, while the Chinese and Indian minorities are not.

After being arrested for drinking beer in a beachfront hotel in December 2007, she was originally told she would receive six strokes of a rattan cane during the last weeks of August.  This was delayed until after Ramadan and after a further review the ruling was subsequently upheld earlier in the week. 

Women’s minister Shahrizat Jalil, the chief judge of Pahang state appeals court called the verdict excessive, stating that it projected a “cruel image” of Malaysia.  “The overriding view was that the sentence meted out was too harsh and is not commensurate with the offense,” she told reporters.

The Prime Minister Najib Razak urged Shukarno to appeal.  However, Shukarno’s case previously garnered widespread media attention after she refused to appeal her sentence.  Shukarno asked that her punishment be carried out in public, saying that she wanted serve as an example to other Muslims.  This has triggered a debate over the use of Islamic laws in the moderate Muslim country, where the country’s majority Malay-Muslims make up 55% of the country’s 27 million population.

It is now in the hands of Pahang Islamic Religious Department to carry out the sentence.  A thin stick is used for the caning since the punishment is less about pain than it is about symbolism and humiliation.  No date has yet been set for the caning.

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Malaysia To Review Caning Woman 25 August 2009

BBC News- Malaysia Upholds Woman’s Caning 28 September 2009

USA Today- Court Uphold Caning of Malaysian Woman For Drinking Beer 28 September 2009

Digital City-Court Upholds Caning of Woman For Drinking Beer 28 September 28, 2009

Author: Impunity Watch Archive

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