KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, (AP) – An Islamic court in Malaysia has sentenced a Muslim woman to be flogged with a rattan cane for having a beer in a nightclub, a court official said Tuesday.
It is rare for a woman in Malaysia to be sentenced to caning — a punishment usually reserved for men in various crimes ranging from rape to bribery.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was sentenced Monday to six lashes and a fine of 5,000 ringgit ($1,400) for consuming alcohol, said a Shariah High Court official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to make public statements.
Shukarno, a 32-year-old model, pleaded guilty in the court in eastern Pahang state to a charge of drinking beer when Islamic authorities raided a hotel nightclub in August 2008.
Consuming alcohol is a religious offense in Malaysia only for Muslims, who make up nearly two-thirds of the population. Offenders are prosecuted in Shariah courts, which handle cases mainly related to family and moral issues for Muslims.
Most offenders are fined, but the law also provides for a three-year prison term and caning. Shukarno was the only Muslim caught in the raid at the Pahang nightclub.
Malaysian clubs and lounges typically serve alcohol but are not legally required to check if customers are Muslim before serving them, so the hotel nightclub operators were not charged with any offense.
Shukarno plans to appeal the sentence, the New Straits Times daily reported.
The punishment “is aimed at making the accused repent and serves as a lesson to Muslims,” the newspaper quoted Judge Abdul Rahman Yunus as saying.
The judge did not elaborate on why he imposed a relatively severe sentence, but local media noted that he had a history of being tough on alcohol offenders.
Rattan canes used in the punishment are made from palm plants common in tropical parts of Asia. They have been used for decades for corporal punishments in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
The caning sentence is generally carried out by specially trained officials at prisons.