Blogging about flogging

Three women (& four men) in Malaysia were flogged earlier this month – meaning whipped with a cane – after a Shariah court found them guilty of extramarital sex. The news came in a press conference from the Malaysian Home Minister yesterday.

The UK media and human rights organisations have, quite understandably, been quick to criticise the use of this brutal punishment – this was the first incidence of its use against a women this year. But the extent to which Malaysia wields the cane – mainly for immigration offences after civil rather than shariah court cases – has barely been mentioned.

The Malaysian authorities have caned over 35,000 people since 2002, mostly non-Malaysians for immigration offenses. Amendments to the Immigration Act in 2002 stipulate caning for immigration offences, increasing the use of this punishment. In June 2009 the Malaysian government announced that they had sentenced 47,914 migrants to be caned since the amendments took effect.

It’s not just Malaysia, of course. Only yesterday, a British judge called Robert Shuster sentenced two men in Tonga to six lashes and 13 years’ detention for escaping from prison and stealing while on the run. According to this story, flogging was introduced by the British but hasn’t been used since the 1980s. The report goes on to add some lurid detail:

“The police headquarters in Nukualofa has a whip, which would be used against prisoners, called the cat o nine tails but it has not been used for many years.
However when it was, it used to be soaked in water overnight before being used against the prisoner the next day.”

A quick (and very unscientific) bit of research on the website (typing ‘flogging’ into the search box) revealed references to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the Maldives and Iran as floggers.

Amnesty opposes flogging as it is a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment which has been banned by international law.  The severity of the pain and suffering often means that whipping is in fact a form of torture.  The governments of Malaysia, Tonga and any other states that think beating their citizens with a big stick represents justice, should abolish it immediately.

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