Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Malaysian authorities have flogged three women for having had sexual relations outside of marriage. This is the first time such punishment has been applied. Together with women, four men were also canned because guilty of adultery. The punishment was carried out on 9 February, in a women's prison near the capital Kuala Lumpur.
In the predominantly Muslim South-East Asian nation, the Malay which are the largest ethic group are subject to Shariah, or Islamic law. Chinese and Indian minorities, however, respond only to the civil court, in a two-track parallel judicial system that are independent of each other.
The women were subjected to six lashings each. One of them has already been released, the second will be released in the coming days and the third, finally, will be freed next June, after serving the sentence. The prison officials have not explained in details how the flogging took place, but local law experts say that "this kind of punishment is usually quite light on the women: they are merely symbolic."
Interior Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, explained that the "punishment" caused "pain, but no injuries" and hopes it will not be "misunderstood so much to undermine the purity of Islam." "The punishment - adds the charge of affairs - is a lesson and a way to give the chance to those who make mistakes to get back on the right path."
Associations and human rights activists, responding instead that the beating suffered by three women, describe it as "only the tip of the iceberg." According to official sources, in fact, by 2002 more than 35 thousand people - mostly foreigners - have been flogged.
Last year the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32 year-old model and mother of two children, convicted of drinking beer, caused a great stir. She was the first woman to have undergone this punishment, but thanks to the wide international attention raised by the case, the penalty has not yet been implemented. Kartika (pictured) has called for the flogging to be carried out in public. Recently the courts have begun the review process, pending the appeal proceedings.