Corporal Punishment Must be Halted and Reviewed

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is gravely concerned with the decision to implement corporal punishment (caning) against two women in Terrenganu by the state Syariah Courts.

As a country have expressed clear interest to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other, Inhuman, or Degrading ill-treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), the Government of Malaysia, which includes all state governments and their associated branches, agencies and bodies should set itself to be in line with the nation’s aspiration to be a torture free nation. The caning of the two individuals at this juncture puts Malaysia’s commitment to ratify the UNCAT questionable in the eyes of all Malaysians and international audiences.

The use of corporal punishment is naturally contentious and amount to degrading treatment as the punishment is always meant to inflict pain and to serve as a deterrence to others through public announcement or viewing of the punishment. Under UNCAT, this aspect of corporal punishment has been identified as degrading treatment as it puts subjects of corporal punishment to public humiliation to deter others.

Furthermore, SUARAM also notes that under the Criminal Justice System, corporal punishment in this context is not permitted as a sentence against women. Section 289(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that no female shall be punished with the sentence of whipping. The discord between the two legal system on this matter raises substantial concerns on the legality of the sentence meted out by the Syariah court as the provisions of a federal law on criminal matters should not be overshadowed by a state legislation.

With this in mind, SUARAM calls on the Terrenganu state government to reconsider its decision to implement the sentence of caning against the two women and for the Federal Government of Malaysia to implement a nationwide moratorium on the use of corporal punishment as Malaysia review its internal policies and positions to be in line with UNCAT.

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