Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. It consists of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo.
Malaysia is a multiracial, multicultural and multilingual society. Politically dominated by the Malays (about 52% of the population), the country has substantial Chinese (30%) and Indian (8%) minorities. The population is about 28.3 million and the capital is Kuala Lumpur. The country is ruled by a constitutional monarchy, with the King (known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong) as the head of state and the Prime Minister as the head of government.
The Malay Archipelago was historically ruled by various Malay kingdoms before becoming part of the British Empire in the 18th century. The land was known as 'Malaya' under British colonial rule. Malaya gained independence in 1957, and united with Sabah and Sarawak, and Singapore in 1963 to form a new country called 'Malaysia'. Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 and became an independent nation.
The official language is Malay, although many other languages are also spoken, including English (as a business language and in tourism), Tamil, Mandarin, and various Chinese dialects (as minority languages).
Spanking in Malaysia
Spanking in Malaysia is similar to that in Singapore. It is widely used as a disciplinary measure, and its use in Malaysia can be divided into the following contexts - judicial, school and domestic. Little is known about consensual spanking and BDSM in Malaysia due to the conservative nature of the country.
The most commonly used spanking implement is the rattan cane. The Malay word for 'cane' is rotan, which means rattan, and is the origin of the English word. Located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is one of the world's leading producers of rattan and therefore such canes are available at low prices in shops, even in modern supermarkets.
Malaysia's preference for corporal punishment is due largely to influence from British colonial rule from 1824 to 1960, and not much to the corporal punishment traditions of Islam, the majority religion. Non-Muslim Malaysians, such as the Chinese and Indian minorities, spank their children as well.
Malaysia is one of the few countries that still use JCP (in the form of caning, with a maximum of 24 strokes) for various crimes, similar to those punishable by caning in Singapore. Only men above the age of 50 (excluding those convicted of rape), those certified medically unfit for caning, boys below the age of 10, and women, are exempted from judicial caning. It was estimated that thousands of men were subjected to caning every year, and most of them were foreigners.
Two types of rattan canes are used for judicial canings:
- Thinner cane, used on white-collar criminals who have committed less serious offences
- Thicker cane (3.6 feet long and 0.49 inches thick), used on offenders who have committed serious and violent crimes. This cane is 1.09 metres long and 1.25 centimetres thick (slightly smaller than the Singapore judicial cane).
The canes are also treated with antiseptic before use to prevent infection.
Caning in Malaysia has never been conducted in public. It is always conducted in an isolated area inside the prison, usually an open courtyard, out of the view of other prisoners and the public. The offender is only notified on the day his sentence is to be carried out. He is ordered to strip completely naked and is given an apron-like garment (sometimes called a sarong) to wear, which covers only the front lower half of his body. He then receives a medical examination by a doctor, and if the doctor certifies him medically fit for caning, he will be sent to a waiting area along with other prisoners who are going to be caned on the same day. He is only escorted to the courtyard when it is his turn. The prison director oversees the caning, along with other officers and a doctor. The director will read the terms of punishment to the offender and ask him to confirm the number of strokes he is to receive.
The prisoner is then led to the A-frame and his wrists and ankles are secured tightly to the frame by leather straps, such that he assumes an inward-facing spreadeagle-like position - hands tied above his head, legs apart. The front of his pelvis rests on a padded cushion, causing his bottom to stick out slightly. A torso shield (or special padding in some cases) is fastened around his hips, covering his lower back and thighs, so that the vulnerable kidney, lower spine and genital areas are protected from any strokes that land off target. Only his bared buttocks are exposed. A prison officer stands in front of the prisoner and wraps his hands around the prisoner's head in case the prisoner jerks back his head and injures his neck.
The punishment is administered by specially trained and certified prison officers. The caning officer takes up position on the prisoner's left and holds the cane with both hands horizontally above his head. When the command is given, he releases his left hand's grip and uses his right hand to swing the cane with full force towards the prisoner's buttocks.
This form of caning is very severe and usually draws blood and leaves permanent scars. The caning officers sometimes wear protective smocks, gloves and goggles to protect themselves from infection. If the prisoner is HIV-positive, the cane used will be burnt immediately after use. After the caning, the prisoner is untied and given medical treatment.
Differences between judicial caning in Malaysia and in Singapore
- In Malaysia, local courts may order the caning of boys under 16. In Singapore, only the High Court may do so.
- In Malaysia, the term "caning" is often used informally, and the phrases "strokes of the cane" and "strokes of the rotan" are used interchangeably, but officially the correct term is "whipping" in accordance with traditional British legislative terminology. In Singapore, in both legislation and press reports, the term "caning" is used to describe the punishment.
- In Singapore, no man above the age of 50 can be sentenced to caning. In Malaysia, however, this age limit has been abolished for rapists. In 2008, a 56-year-old man was sentenced to 57 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane for rape.
- The Malaysian cane is marginally smaller than the Singaporean one but there are no discernible differences when first-person accounts from both countries are compared. In Malaysia, a smaller cane is used for white-collar offenders but there are no reports of any such distinction being made in Singapore.
- The "torso shield" that covers the offender's lower back and upper thighs while leaving the buttocks exposed is used only in Malaysia. In Singapore, rubber-lined padding is secured around the prisoner's lower back to protect the kidney and lower spine area from any strokes that land off-target. This is also a reason why 'wrapping' hardly occurs in a Malaysian caning, and the wounds are more concentrated around the middle of the buttocks (because the sides are covered by the torso shield). In Singapore, 'wrapping' occurs nearly all the time, because there is a very high tendency for the flexible cane to hit the side of the far buttock near the hip area (usually on the right side), which is not covered by any padding.
- The frame used to secure the prisoner in Malaysia is different from that used in Singapore. In Malaysia, the inmate stands upright (albeit leaning slightly forward) at the A-frame with his legs apart, while in Singapore the offender bends over a padded crossbar on the caning trestle with his feet together.
- In Malaysia, men have sometimes been sentenced to more than 24 strokes, such as in a case in 2004 when a man was given 75 years' jail and 50 strokes of the cane for molesting his stepdaughter. There are no reports of any man being sentenced to more than 24 strokes in a single sentence in Singapore.
- Syariah caning is practised in Malaysia, but not in Singapore. This form of punishment is applicable only to Muslims (both Malaysian and non-Malaysian).
Apart from its criminal law system, Malaysia also has a separate system of Syariah (or Sharia) courts, which can also order canings for only Muslims. Syariah caning is much less severe than judicial caning, and may be administered to both men and women. The offender is fully dressed and is caned on his or her back (over clothing) by an officer of the same gender as the offender. Men stand when they receive the punishment while women are seated. The caning officer is required to exercise restraint, and can only use their wrist power without raising the entire arm. This form of punishment is meant to be symbolic and humiliating to the offender as opposed to the objective of inflicting pain (as in judicial canings).
- In 2009, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a Malaysian Muslim woman, was sentenced by a religious court to six strokes of the cane and a fine for drinking beer in a hotel bar. (Muslims are forbidden from consuming alcohol.) There was controversy surrounding the sentence, as some argued that the sentence did not conform to Islamic law while others defended it. On 1 April 2010, one day before the sentence was due to be carried out, the Sultan of Pahang commuted the sentence to three weeks of community service. Kartika has said she would rather be caned.
- On 9 February 2010, three Muslim women were caned by order of a Syariah court for having extramarital sex. This was the first time women have ever been subjected to an official punishment of caning in Malaysia. The advocacy group Sisters in Islam and the Malaysian Bar Council claimed that these canings violated laws in Malaysia that prohibit the punishment against females.
- On 3 September 2018, two Malaysian women were each sentenced to six strokes of the cane and a fine for having lesbian sex. The punishment was carried out at the Sharia High Court in Kuala Terengganu. The case sparked widespread controversy and drew strong criticism from various rights groups in Malaysia.
Malaysia introduced Western-style school uniforms in the late 19th century during the British colonial era. Today, school uniforms are almost universal in the public and private school systems. School uniforms are compulsory for all students and are standardised nationwide.
School corporal punishment, in the form of caning, is lawful and is regulated by the government. Only schoolboys can be caned and the caning of schoolgirls is technically banned. The student must be caned on the buttocks over clothing or on the palm of the hand (hand caning). Most photos or videos of present-day school corporal punishment in Malaysia show the student receiving strokes of the cane on his clothed bottom in a standing position.
Caning is used as a punishment for repeated or serious offences, and only the principal or an authorised member of the school staff is allowed to administer corporal punishment.
Although the government has outlawed the caning of schoolgirls, there are many reported cases suggesting that schoolgirls are still caned on their palms at some schools, up to and including the age of 19. Public caning was supposedly banned in schools in 2006 but this has not stopped it from happening in practice.
The spanking of children in Malaysia has a long tradition and continues to the present day. A thin rattan cane is used for this purpose, applied to the child's bared or clothed bottom, palm of the hand, thighs or calves. Some parents may use other implements like feather duster handles, rulers and clothes hangers. Hand-spanking is probably also common for younger children, but there is little information on that.
For preteen children, lightweight canes of small diameters are used, while thicker canes are usually reserved for older children and teenagers. Malaysian boys are probably subject to more frequent and more severe corporal punishment than girls, but there are no statistics to support this.
Spanking artists in Malaysia
There are no known spanking artists from Malaysia so far, except for a cartoonist, Lat, who drew a few humorous cartoon references to spanking. The country's strict anti-pornography laws make it a legal problem to produce erotic adult spanking art. Non-erotic artwork, photographs and videos of canings are allowed to be shown. For example, in the former Pudu Prison (near the capital Kuala Lumpur), which was briefly a museum in the 2000s, visitors were shown photographs and a video of a judicial caning.
- Looi, Elizabeth (25 July 2009). "Malaysia in heated debate over caning of woman", The Straits Times (Singapore).
- "Malaysia canes women for adultery", Al-Jazeera.net (Qatar). 18 February 2010.
- "We deserved punishment", Mail Online (London). 21 February 2010.
- See e.g. these video clips of schoolboy canings at World Corporal Punishment Research.