CAIRO – Regretting their actions, the first Malaysian women to be caned for extramarital affairs say that their penalty would help fight illicit behaviour in the Muslim-majority country.
“I deeply regret my actions,” one of the women, 17, told the New Straits Times on Friday, February 19.
The three women were given four to six lashes last week for having extramarital affairs.
“On the day I was caned, I was scared,” said one of the women, a 25-year-old who went by the name of “Ayu”.
“But, at the same time, I knew I deserved it and was willing to take the punishment.”
The three women, aged between 17 and 25, said they were clothed and were seated when the sentence was carried out.
Each stroke of the cane was administered at one-minute intervals using a thin rattan cane.
Malaysia says the punishment is supposed to be symbolic and a deterrent rather than aimed at causing pain.
“Ayu” has a one-year-old daughter with her boyfriend, while the other two women also gave birth out of wedlock.
The three women said they turned themselves in to religious authorities after being wracked by guilt over having pre-marital affairs.
“Those out there who are having sex before marriage should really consider the consequences and not only think about momentary pleasure,” she told the Times.
Despite criticism from advocacy groups, the penalty has been drawing support from Muslim leaders in the country.
“The sentencing has proven that caning is not unjust, inhumane or causes injuries,” Mohd Isa Abdul Ralip, the president of the Association of Shari`ah Lawyers, said in a press statement cited by The Malaysian Insider.
Advocacy groups have criticized the caning as a proof on what they describe as “Islamization” of the country.
“The public and world community no longer needs to fear caning as a punishment under the Shari`ah because it is not cruel but instead educates the offenders,” Mohd Isa responded to the criticism.
“It also provides awareness and teaches the offenders to repent and not repeat the acts.”
An uproar raised in Malaysia last year after a young woman was sentenced to six strokes for serving alcohol.
Her case, which was to have been the first time a woman was caned under Islamic law in Malaysia, is still under review after the woman was given a last-minute reprieve amid intense media coverage.
“This is concrete proof that the punishment went well and has been accepted,” said Fadhilina Sidek, vice-president of the Islamic Youth Movement (Abim).
“The guilty has also repented and there is no proof of any injuries at all. What is the problem now?”
Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of the 26-million population of multiracial Malaysia.
The multi-ethnic country applies Islamic Shari`ah law only to its Muslim population, while civil laws apply to non-Muslims.