Malaysia: Sisters in Islam criticize whipping of women

Sisters in Islam
Open letter: 'Sisters in Islam' (SIS) urges the government to review whipping of women as a form of judicial punishment by the Syariah Courts.
It constitutes further discrimination against Muslim women in Malaysia and violates Constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination.
"Whipping of women under Syariah Criminal Offences legislation also contradicts civil law where women are not punishable by whipping under Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Whipping of men too are limited by age. Under state Syariah Criminal Offences Codes, only Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan provide whipping of women. Whipping as a form of punishment also violates human rights principles, in particular the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. Nor is whipping for consuming alcohol considered proportional to the gravity of the offence.

There is no consensus among Muslim scholars on the range of crimes for which whipping is prescribed, nor on whether women should be whipped. Many countries have already abolished the judicial punishment of whipping or corporal punishment as research has shown that it is not an effective deterrent, even to violent or sexual crimes. Research since abolition also showed that this did not result in an increase in the offences for which whipping was previously imposed.

Given that whipping does not lead to reform nor act as a deterrent, and that it constitutes a form of cruel and degrading treatment that, it is unfortunate that many Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan and Nigeria, have resorted to introducing whipping to more and more offences, in the name of Islam or the mistaken belief that it acts as an effective deterrent.

SIS believes that Islam as a religion of compassion calls people to the way of God with wisdom, as expressed in Surah An-Nahl,16:125, “Invite all to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and reason with them in the ways that are best and most gracious.”

The goal of Islamic authorities is to prevent crime in the first place, not to inflict severe punishment as a first resort. Promoting and protecting the human rights of the ummah, ensuring socio-economic justice, educating the ummah about God’s teachings and laws in order that they become responsible for abiding by them out of faith are prerequisites before any punishment can be implemented.

SIS, therefore, urges the government to conduct a review of severe forms of punishments, which violate human rights principles and where evidence have shown that they fail to deter or to reform the offenders.

Dr Hamidah Marican
Executive Director
Sisters In Islam
Petaling Jaya
23 July 2009