KUALA TERENGGANU: The caning sentence for a woman here for offering sex services goes against normal sentencing guidelines because the woman is a first-time offender who pleaded guilty and should not have been given the maximum penalty, says Sisters in Islam.
Criticising the judgment, its executive director, Rozana Isa said whipping did little to educate but only reinforced Islamophobic stereotypes that the religion discriminated against women.
“Any laws passed under the name of Islam must take into account the most fundamental teachings of the Quran, which is based on justice and mercy and the right to preserve human dignity,” she said.
She said the woman, who was charged for preparing to prostitute herself under Section 25 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Takzir) (Terengganu) 2001, was a first-time offender who pleaded guilty.
“Normal sentencing guidelines dictate that she should not have been given the maximum punishment,” she said.
The penalty for those committing the offence is a prison sentence of not more than three years, or a fine of not more than RM5,000, or six strokes of the cane, or a combination of any of the penalties.
Rozana said the zeal with which the punishment was meted out ignored the circumstances of the woman, who was a divorcee with a seven-year-old daughter.
The single mother also did not receive any financial support from her former husband.
“Where is the compassion that lies at the heart of Islamic teachings?
She said proponents of the punishment, who claimed that it was done with the intention of educating, show ed that they did not consider the humiliation experienced by women as a relevant factor of their pain.
“In fact, humiliation is a key aspect of the punishment and causes lasting psychological trauma,” she said.
Rozana was also disappointed that civil organisations’ call for a moratorium on corporal punishment had gone unheeded.
Justice for Sisters, who were equally vocal in criticising the caning of two women charged for attempting to have sexual relations earlier this month, echoed SIS’ views.
“It is disappointing and frustrating that the state government continues with a punishment that is cruel, degrading and inhumane despite the public outrcy,” said the organisation’s co-founder Thilaga Sulathireh.
She also hit out against judge Rosdi Harun’s attempt to stop discussion on the sentence by threatening dissidents with contempt of court.
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