People Are Afraid':Gay Caning Stokes Fear in Malaysia's LGBT Community

Two gay women have been caned in Malaysia amid a worsening climate for LGBT individuals in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation. The punishment of the two unnamed women took place Monday morning in Terengganu, a state to the east of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, according to rights campaigner Thilaga Sulathireth. Each woman was lashed six times after being caught attempting to have sex in a parked car. They were also required to pay a fine of 3,300 ringgit ($800).

Sulathireth, who witnessed the caning along with around 100 other people, told that it was a "public caning to all intents and purposes," and that one of the judges had said it was the first time a punishment of this kind had been open to the public. Monday's punishment shows the religious right "flexing their muscles and making clear that the laws against LGBT activity will be enforced in their state," said Linda Lakhdhir, a legal adviser in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.

The punishment follows a raid on one of Kuala Lumpur's only gay clubs, which saw around 20 men charged for "illicit behaviour," and a brutal attack on a trans woman in a city close to the capital. "In this climate, there's been an increasing sense of fear, people are a bit more careful, one of the things we've heard from the community is increased pressure from their families to be safe. We've been hearing cases of hate crimes and different kinds of aggression. This is part of an ongoing trend," said Sulathireh.

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