Malaysia’s Terengganu state has passed new laws that will punish Muslim women for out-of-wedlock pregnancies and for behaving and dressing like men.
The state, governed by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), has dictated women be punished by a fine of up to 5,000 ringgit (approximately $1,130), a three-year jail term, six lashes or any combination of the three for donning men’s clothing and for conceiving a child when they are not married to their partner, according to the state religious official Satiful Bahari Mamat.
Witchcraft and sorcery are also outlawed under the amendments. According to Satiful, the new laws are meant to better protect “the well-being of Muslims,” adding that they were enacted because previous laws only pertained to men acting like women.
“Because in the past, there might not have been much of this issue (women acting like men),” Satiful told the state news agency, according to Wion. “But we see now that ‘pengkid’ (tomboy or lesbian) cases and the like are becoming more widespread, so the state government intends to curb this issue.”
The PAS, which won more seats than any single party in last month’s election, focuses on Islamic fundamentalism. The party wishes to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state and has since urged the federal parliament to pass strict Islamic legislation.
The laws come amid fears of the Islamist-based parties holding greater influence on state affairs. In the first 11 months of this year, global funds have pulled more than $1.2 billion from the domestic bond market due to concerns relating to the political instability in the Southeast Asian country.
The recent move has also drawn anger from 14 human rights groups — including the All Women’s Action Society — which believe that the new legislation violates the right to freedom of expression and eliminates equality and non-discrimination.
“The laws can have harmful impact on women, young people, LGBTQ persons, among others,” the groups said in a statement.
The Malaysian state follows a similar move made by neighbor Indonesia last month, which outlawed sex and cohabitation outside of marriage with penalties of up to a year in prison. The bill also raised the penalty for abortions, restricted the rights of LGBTQ-plus citizens and limited criticism of Indonesia’s president and public institutions.