Malaysia: Woman set to be caned for drinking beer

Islamic officials take custody of first woman in country to be given the punishment for violating religious laws.

Shukarno 248.88 (photo credit: )
Shukarno 248.88
(photo credit: )
Islamic officials took custody Monday of a Muslim model scheduled to be caned this week for drinking beer, the first woman in Malaysia to be given the punishment for violating religious laws. Two female and one male official came to the house of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno in northern Malaysia and took her away in a van on a four-hour road journey to a prison near Kuala Lumpur, the country's main city. Officials have said she will be caned sometime during the week but no specific date has been set. Kartika, 32, is to become the first Malaysian woman to be caned in Malaysia. She was arrested in a raid for drinking beer at a hotel lounge last year for breaching the Muslim-majority country's Shariah law, which forbids Muslims to consume alcohol. She was sentenced by a Shariah court in July in what was considered a warning to other Muslims to abide by religious laws. Kartika did not appeal and says she is willing to be caned. Dressed in a full-length cream-and-red satin gown and a head scarf, Kartika emerged from her house and walked past a group of about 50 local Muslims who said prayers for her. After a last kiss with her 5-year-old daughter, she got into the silver van along with her sister and the Islamic officials. She did not speak to the horde of media assembled outside the house in the countryside, about 5 miles (7 kilometers) from Karai town in the northern Perak state. In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Kartika had said she wants to be caned because "I want to respect the law." The law provides for a three-year prison term and caning for Muslims caught drinking, but most offenders are fined. Drinking is legal for non-Muslims. "Who am I to question the Islamic authorities' laws? That is beyond me," she said. Islamic authorities insist that the purpose of the caning is to educate rather than punish. They say the rattan cane to be used on Kartika will be smaller and lighter than the one used for men and that she will remain clothed. The prison official who canes her is also supposed to use very little force. Men convicted of civil crimes such as rape and bribery in Malaysia are caned on their bare buttocks, breaking the skin and leaving permanent scars. Kartika said four close relatives, including her father and sister, have requested permission to witness her being caned in a women's prison. Officials have indicated the request would be granted, she said. Amnesty International has urged authorities to revoke the sentence and abolish the practice of caning.