Father Wants Public Caning for Malay Woman Over Beer
By Ranjeetha Pakiam
Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The caning of a Malaysian mother for drinking a beer should be conducted in public if it is meant to set an example to fellow Muslims, her father said, days before the punishment is set to be carried out in a closed prison.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, faces six strokes of the cane after a Shariah court found the former model guilty of breaking a law that forbids all Muslims, including foreign visitors, from drinking alcohol. After deciding not to appeal, she may become the first woman to be caned in Malaysia.
The Shariah court in the eastern state of Pahang Kartika fixed Aug. 24 to 30 for the Prisons Department to conduct the sentence, said Mohamad Isa Abd Ralip, president of the Syariah Lawyers Association of Malaysia. Kartika will be held for a week at the women’s prison in Kajang outside Kuala Lumpur, a decision that has puzzled her father, Shukarno Abdul Muttalib.
“As a Muslim, I agree with her punishment, but I don’t agree that it should be done in jail, she is not a prisoner,” Shukarno, 60, told Bloomberg in an interview. “If the authorities want to use this as an example, then the caning should be done in public in Pahang.”
The businessman said it was embarrassing for his daughter to be brought to prison where criminals are held. If there was no alternative, Shukarno said he would ask the authorities to allow him and the media to attend the caning to ensure transparency.
“Nobody should have to endure corporal punishment, be it a man or woman,” said Ragunath Kesavan, president of the Malaysian Bar Council. He said a public caning would be considered unacceptable to many members of society and would set an unwelcome precedent.
Kartika, who is married to a Singaporean, decided not to appeal against the court’s July 20 judgment because she wants to get the ordeal over with and get on with her family life, the New Straits Times reported on July 22.
The mother of two, who also paid a fine of 5,000 ringgit ($1,420) for drinking in a hotel lounge in July last year, wants other people to learn from her experience. Her husband, also a Muslim, wasn’t with her at the time.
“When I received the news, I was relieved,” Kartika said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I want it to be over, rather than leave it hanging. I’m a bit afraid because I don’t know what to expect, but I’m prepared” to be punished.
Kartika and her husband left Singapore Aug. 18 when they heard of the court’s decision and traveled to her father’s house in the northern state of Perak. Shukarno said they hadn’t received any written notification and would wait for the Islamic authorities to pick up Kartika and take her to the prison.
Malaysia has a dual-track judicial system where Islamic courts operate alongside civil institutions. Three of the Southeast Asian nation’s 13 states permit the caning of convicted women under the Shariah Criminal Offences Code.
“This is a fair decision, because the Shariah laws do not discriminate whether the offender is male or female,” said Mohamad Isa. “The punishment is more geared to teaching a lesson. The caning is not meant to physically hurt.”
Shariah judges have meted out the maximum sentence for drinking alcohol to a woman on one previous occasion. The first offender, waitress Noorazah Baharuddin, 22, was sentenced in January for consuming liquor in a pub in Pahang last year, state news agency Bernama reported. She has appealed and the case is pending, the Star newspaper said.
Three men who were previously convicted for drinking alcohol and were sentenced to be caned are still waiting for their appeals to be heard, Mohamad Isa said.
According to Islamic principles and the Pahang Shariah rules, caning should be conducted with a small, thin stick and cannot be administered on the head, face, stomach, chest or genitals.
The prison officer wielding the cane is not allowed to use much force, ensuring his or her hand doesn’t rise above head- height, Mohamad Isa said. The offender must be fully clothed and men must stand, whereas women can be seated.
Under the government’s civil criminal system, men can be caned for serious offences such as rape. These punishments are administered using a thicker cane and applied to the bare buttocks of the offender, who is bound to a frame.
Neighboring Singapore’s law also allows for caning for serious offences such as rape and drug trafficking. In 1994, U.S. teenager Michael Fay received four strokes of the cane in a Singapore prison after being convicted of vandalism.
In Indonesia, caning is not part of the criminal legal system though it is used in Aceh province, which has introduced a form of Shariah law since being granted autonomy in 2005.
About 60 percent of Malaysia’s population is Muslim. The rest are mostly Buddhists, Hindus, Christians or Sikhs.
Many Malaysians feel caning is too harsh a sentence, said Chandra Muzaffar, president of the International Movement for a Just World, a Malaysian non-governmental organization, adding that there are no studies to suggest caning is a deterrent to drinking alcohol.
“Accepting the fact that the consumption of alcohol is prohibited” in Islam, “the best approach is to counsel,” said Chandra. If he or she persists, “it’s between the person and God.”
Last Updated: August 20, 2009 05:31 EDT
Model who drank beer to be first woman caned in Malaysia
Muslim model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has become the first woman in Malaysia to be sentenced to a caning after being caught drinking beer in a beach resort.
The 32-year-old will receive six lashes at a woman's prison next week in what is being viewed as an example of the growing influence of Islamic hardliners on the country.
The mother-of-two who lives in Singapore with her husband, paid a fine of £860, but declined to lodge an appeal so she could get the punishment over with and put the episode behind her.
The harsh sentence has provoked anger among women's rights groups who fear it is another sign of the creeping influence of conservative Islam on Malaysian society.
In the northern backwater state of Kalentan ruled by the hardline Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, authorities have decreed that supermarkets must have separate checkout queues for men and women and beaches be segregated.
Young couples caught sitting too close together on park benches in the state capital, Kota Baru, are hunted down by the city's moral enforcers and fined up to £285 in Sharia courts.
The Islamic alcohol prohibition laws in Malaysia's eastern Pahang state date back more than two decades. But Malaysian-born Kartika, who now has Singaporean citizenship, is the first woman to fall foul of them.
She was arrested in July last year in a hotel nightclub in the beach resort of Cherating during a raid by the state's religious department and admitted drinking beer.
An Islamic court fined her and ordered her to be caned at Kajang women's prison next week, but spared her a jail term of up to three years.
She received word of the sentence from her father and said she would be returning to Malaysia from Singapore.
"I accept the punishment," she said. "I am not afraid because I was ready to be punished from day one. [The authorities] hope to use my case as a way to educate Muslims. So go ahead. I want to move on with my life."
Prosecutor Saiful Idham Sahimi said: "This is the first case in Malaysia. It is a good punishment because under Islamic law a person who drinks commits a serious offence."
Muslims make up about 60 per cent of Malaysia's 28 million people and are governed by Sharia courts for all civil and religious matters.
Non-Muslims, mainly Chinese and Indians, are governed by civil courts, which impose caning sentences for serious offences such as rape. The lashes administered to the buttocks, break the skin and leave scars.
But in Kartika's case the rattan cane will be lighter than those used to punish men. Sharia law dictates it be no thicker than the little finger and the cane cannot be lifted so high the arm is away from the armpit. The court ordered the jail's female governor administer the sentence.
Kartika has been ordered to report to the jail next Monday, where she will be given a medical check-up to ensure she is fit to receive the punishment.
She could then be held for seven days, but will be released immediately after the caning.
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