'We deserved our punishment': What three Muslim Malaysian women said after being caned for having sex outside marriage'
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 2:34 AM on 20th February 2010
Prison authorities caned the women last week after an Islamic Shariah court issued the penalty.
The caning has outraged rights groups and revived speculation that conservative Islamists, who advocate harsh punishment, are gaining influence in the country.
The three women, aged 17-25, said they turned themselves in after feeling guilty for sleeping with their boyfriends before marriage and getting pregnant.
Malaysian justice: Prison staff demonstrate to the media how the caning process was done at the Kajang prison outside Kuala Lumpur
The 17-year-old told reporters that she surrendered to Islamic authorities after her prematurely born child died.
She is now serving a six-month prison sentence.
'I know I have sinned, and I have to be punished. Strangely however, I felt that the caning was not a form of punishment but was an opportunity for me to repent and return to the right path,' she said.
She has already married her boyfriend, who has also been caned and jailed over the offence.
The other women, who have one young child each, are planning to marry their partners after they are released.
The men were also caned for having sex.
One woman, aged 25, said she was scared before the caning but knew she deserved the punishment.
All three women called on others not to make the same mistake and abstain from sex before marriage.
Journalists interview three women who were caned for having sex out of wedlock, at a prison in Kajang . They are first to be caned under the country's Islamic laws
A Prison Department official confirmed the women's comments, made at a news conference at the women's prison outside Kuala Lumpur to local, government-linked media under the watch of authorities.
He said they were reluctant to speak to other media.
It could not be confirmed whether they were speaking voluntarily.
A request with the department for interviews is pending.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin defended the caning this morning, saying it was 'far lighter' than what some people might imagine.
'The punishment is legitimate and in accordance with the law,' Muhyiddin said.
Human rights groups have slammed the caning, saying it is a cruel and degrading punishment and discriminates against Muslim women because Malaysian civil law - which applies to non-Muslims - bans the caning of women.
The women, who were fully clothed and sitting on a stool, received between four and six strokes with a thin rattan stick on the back, lasting a few minutes.
Another woman, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, is still waiting to be caned for drinking beer in public.
Her case received international attention last year when she became the first woman slated to receive a caning penalty.
But the punishment was deferred indefinitely amid a public outcry.
Caning of men for such offenses as rape, drug smuggling and staying illegally in the country is common.
It is administered with a thick rattan stick on bare buttocks, causing severe pain and leaving scars.
Malaysia has a two-tier justice system.
Shariah courts deal with personal matters for Muslims, who account for about two-thirds of the country's 28 million people, while non-Muslims - many of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indians - go to civil courts.
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