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2 Women Caned in Malaysia for Engaging in Sexual Relationship

Two Malaysian women convicted under Islamic law for homosexuality were publicly caned Monday.

The two unidentified women, ages 32 and 22, were punished in front of about 100 witnesses at a sharia court in the northeastern state of Terengganu. The pair were discovered in a car by Islamic authorities back in April. They pled guilty for attempting to engage in lesbian sex, and were sentenced to six lashings of a cane and a fine.

Human rights groups have expressed outrage about the verdict.

"To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback in the government's efforts to improve its human rights record," Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International's Malaysia Researcher, said in a statement.

Muslim-majority Malaysia follows a two-track legal system, where civil courts operate alongside Islamic courts, which handle family, marriage and personal issues.

Monday's punishment was carried out amid an apparent and growing backlash against Malaysia's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.

The government's religious affairs minister has openly dismissed homosexuality, and ordered portraits of two LGBT activists to be removed from a public exhibition. Earlier this month, a transgender woman was beaten by a group of assailants in southern Malaysia.

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