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Malaysian Lesbians Arrested Under Sharia Law

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Sep 4, 2014

Two Malaysian women were arrested this week and charged with violating the Sharia Law for being lesbians, after a dildo was found in their hotel room.

Buzzfeed reports that the two women, in their early 20s, were arrested in the outskirts of the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru on Sunday by the religious police.

Reports by the Malaysian paper Sinar Harian said that the women were swept up in a broad morality raid launched around the Southeast Asian's country annual celebration of its independence from Great Britain. The police raided a budget hotel and arrested seven heterosexual couples for violating laws against adultery, and "close proximity," whatever that means. The women, both who identified as university students, were also arrested.

Sharia codes like this are reportedly commonly used to target transwomen, and the Islamist government has used homophobia as a political tool, jailing those they oppose for "sodomy."

The women claim that the dildo had arrived by mail, and had never been used. And news reports say that while one woman was naked in the bathroom when police entered, the other was fully clothed. The women now face three years in jail, six lashes and a fine of about $1,500.

Joe.My.God. reports that the women's rights group Sisters in Islam is protesting the arrests, saying that the police have no evidence that sex took place.

"Sisters in Islam notes that the news report on the duo, nabbed on suspicion of having same-sex relations, has failed to show any criminal elements," wrote the organization in a statement.

They alleged that police exceeded their authority by arresting the women. But they also note that as this is the first time the women were arrested under the codes' prohibition of lesbianism, with Justice for Sisters' Thilaga Sulathireh saying, "Some of my friends are pretty freak out."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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