Terengganu shariah amendments have harmful impact, say groups

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The Terengganu state assembly has amended religious laws to criminalise of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and women dressing as men. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: Human rights groups have called on the Malaysian human rights commission (Suhakam) to undertake a human rights impact assessment of the latest version of the Terengganu Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 2022.
Two of the 10 signatories, Sisters in Islam (SIS) and Justice for Sisters (JFS), said they were concerned over the amendments that were passed yesterday by the Terengganu state assembly.
“The amendments to the enactment further exacerbate existing harmful impacts on women, young people and LGBTQ persons, among others,” they said in a statement.
They were responding to media reports of the proceedings on Nov 28 which provided some details of the amendments. They included the criminalisation of out-of-wedlock pregnancies (Section 29A).

“The criminalisation of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, for instance, not only places unnecessary trauma but burden and shame on survivors of sexual assault,” they said.
Citing a 2018 report by SIS and Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre on child marriages, they added that criminalisation contributed to an increase in child marriages, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and illiteracy among girls.
SIS and JAS said Malaysia, as a party to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and the Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC), was obligated to eliminate all forms of discrimination against all women and children.
Other amendments made to the Enactment include the criminalisation of witchcraft and black magic (Section 3A), females posing as men (Section 33A) and sodomy (Section 36A).

On Thursday, Terengganu shariah implementation, education and higher education committee chairman Satiful Bahri Mamat said the issue of females posing as men was becoming more widespread.
Individuals found guilty can be punished under Section 356 for up to three years in prison, a fine of RM5,000 and six lashes.
For the section on witchcraft and magic, he said a special committee would be established under the Terengganu religious affairs department to ensure that the Muslim community does not seek alternative treatment that conflicts with Islamic law.

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