SISTERS in Islam (SIS) urges the government to review whipping of women as a form of judicial punishment by the syariah courts. Whipping constitutes further discrimination against Muslim women in Malaysia and violates constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination.
Only Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan provide whipping of women under their Syariah Criminal Offences Code.
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, meanwhile, is limited by age.
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.
Whipping as a form of punishment also violates human rights principles, in particular the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
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 of whipping, also show that [doing away with this form of punishment] 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, it is unfortunate that many Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan and Nigeria, have resorted to introducing whipping for more and more offences. They do so 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 shows that they fail to deter or to reform the offenders.
Dr Hamidah Marican
Sisters in Islam