Caning in Malaysia

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Caning is used as a form of legal corporal punishment in Malaysia. Judicial caning, ordered as part of a criminal sentence imposed by a civil court on a male criminal, is the most severe form of caning in Malaysia and is always combined with a prison sentence for adult offenders.

A much less severe form of caning can be ordered by Sharia courts (normally spelled Syariah in Malaysia). Unlike judicial caning, Sharia caning may be ordered for women as well as men, but only for Muslims, including non-Malaysians.

Male students may be punished with a light rattan cane in school for committing serious offences.

Malaysia has been criticised by human rights groups for its use of judicial caning, which Amnesty International claims "subjects thousands of people each year to systematic torture".[1]

Judicial caning[edit]

Two types of judicial canes: The front row shows the thicker canes while the back row consists of lighter canes.


Malaysian law excludes the following groups from judicial caning:

  • Women
  • Men aged 50 and above (except when convicted of rape);[2]
  • Any person below the age of 10
  • Any person deemed unfit for caning by a medical officer
  • The insane

Boys aged 10 to 18 may be sentenced up to ten strokes with a light cane.[3]

Number of strokes[edit]

The maximum number of strokes that can be ordered under Malaysian criminal law is 24. Two different types of rattan (rotan) canes are used.[4]

The entire caning is carried out in one session. If the offender faints or is rendered unconscious, the overseeing medical officer will halt the process. A court hearing may be held for the remaining number of strokes to be converted into additional time in prison. In general, five to six months of imprisonment are given for each remaining stroke.[citation needed]

Caning officers[edit]

Prison officers administering judicial canings are required to fulfill certain requirements and must be officially certified as caners. As of 2005, they are paid RM10 for each stroke, an increase of RM1 from a decade earlier.[5]

The cane[edit]

Two types of rattan canes are used for judicial canings:

  • Thinner cane, used on white-collar criminals who have committed offences such as bribery and criminal breach of trust.
  • Thicker cane, used on offenders who have committed serious and violent crimes, such as drug trafficking, armed robbery, and rape.

The thicker cane is 1.09 metres long and 1.25 centimetres thick.[6]


A mannequin tied to an A-shaped frame. Note the "frame shield" that covers the lower back and upper thighs while leaving the buttocks exposed.

Caning is conducted in an isolated area (usually an open yard) in the prison, away from the view of the public and other prisoners.

The offender is only notified on the day his sentence is to be carried out. He is ordered to undress and is given an apron-like garment to wear, which covers only the front lower half of his body. He then receives a medical checkup by the prison doctor.[4][7] If he is deemed medically fit, he is then isolated in a holding 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 to be punished.

The prison director oversees the caning, along with a medical officer and another prison official. The director reads the terms of punishment to the offender and asks him to confirm the number of strokes he is to receive.

The inmate is then led to the A-shaped frame and his wrists and ankles are tied to it by leather straps such that he assumes exactly the same position as depicted in the picture on the left. A special "frame shield" is fastened around the prisoner's hips such that only the buttocks are exposed while the lower back (the vulnerable kidney and lower spine area) and upper thighs are covered[8][9] and protected from any strokes that land off-target. A prison officer stands in front of the offender with his hands wrapped around the offender's head in case the offender jerks back his neck.

The caning officer takes up position on the inmate's left and begins by holding the cane with both hands horizontally above his head. Once ready, he releases his left hand's grip and uses his right hand to swing the cane at full force towards the offender's buttocks. To ensure maximum effect, the officer ensures that the cane's tip comes in contact with the target area.[10]

Sanitary procedures are observed as a precaution against HIV transmissions. Each cane is soaked in antiseptic before use to prevent infections. In the case of a HIV-positive subject, the cane used will be burnt after the punishment is over. Caning officers also wear protective smocks, gloves, and goggles.

After the caning, the inmate is released from the frame and taken to the prison clinic for medical treatment.[11]

Malaysian caning videos[edit]

In the mid-2000s, the Malaysian authorities released three graphic videos featuring several genuine judicial canings, ranging from one stroke to 20 strokes. The canings were filmed in Seremban Prison, not far from the capital Kuala Lumpur.[12][13]

Differences between judicial caning in Malaysia and in Singapore[edit]

  • In Malaysia, local courts may order the caning of boys under 16 but in Singapore only the High Court may do so.[14]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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.[14]
  • The special "frame 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.[9]
  • The A-shaped frames used in Singapore and Malaysia are different. In Malaysia the inmate stands upright (albeit leaning slightly forward) at the frame with his legs apart, while in Singapore the offender bends over a padded crossbar on the frame with his feet together.[14]
  • 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 step-daughter.[16] There are no reports of any man receiving more than 24 strokes in Singapore.

Sharia caning[edit]

Malaysia also has a separate system of sharia courts for Muslims, which can order canings for both men and women. This kind of caning is rarely implemented, and is quite different from, and much less severe than, judicial caning under Malaysian criminal law. It is intended to be shaming rather than particularly painful. The punishment is carried out in an enclosed area, away from the view of the public. The cane used is smaller as compared to the one used for judicial canings. The offender is fully dressed and receives the punishment on his or her back; men remain standing while receiving the punishment while women are seated. The caning is administered by an officer of the same gender as the recipient. Each stroke is executed with moderate force so as not to break the skin, and the caning officer delivers the punishment with a "limp wrist" and without raising his or her hand. A medical officer is also present throughout the procedure.[17][18]

Kartika case[edit]

There was also controversy surrounding the caning sentence for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.[19] She was sentenced by a religious court in 2009 to six strokes of the cane and a fine for drinking beer in a hotel bar. Some said Kartika's sentence did not conform to Islamic law, but Mohamad Sahfri, chairman of the Pahang Religious Affairs Committee, said all relevant regulations had been observed.[20]

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.[21] Kartika has said that she would have preferred for the original sentence to have been imposed.[22]

Caning of three women in February 2010[edit]

On 9 February 2010 three Muslim women were caned by order of a Sharia court for fornication, the first time women have ever been caned in Malaysia.[23][24]

The advocacy group Sisters in Islam and the Malaysian Bar Council have both said that these canings violated federal civil laws that prohibit the punishment against females.[25][26]

School caning[edit]

Corporal punishment is lawful in schools but only for boys, and is regulated by the Education Regulations (Student Discipline) 2006. [27]

A picture showing the marks left on a student's palm after a caning

However, there are many reported cases suggesting the caning of schoolgirls, on their palms, is a common practice especially in primary school.[28][29][30][31] While serious infringements such as theft, smoking, gangsterism and bullying are among offences punishable by caning, minor transgressions such as incomplete homework have also been dealt with by physical punishment. [32]

Government guidelines on school caning[edit]

  • Caning is permitted for boys only
  • In most circumstances the caning can only be conducted by the Headmaster
  • A teacher can only cane when the Headmaster delegates this power to him in writing, and he must be a permanent teacher of the school.
  • The student can only be caned on the buttocks (over clothing) or the palm. He cannot be caned on the bare buttocks.[33]
  • The caning is to be conducted in a confined area.
  • The student's parents will be informed and invited to witness their son's punishment.[34]
  • Caning must only be for a repeated or very serious offence.

Public caning is banned in schools after the Education Regulations (Student Discipline) 2006 came into force. The Malaysian government does not encourage caning for primary school students, but caning is allowed in secondary schools, and may only be administered by the principal or a person to whom he delegates the power to.[35]


Malaysia has been criticised by human rights groups for its use of judicial caning. A 6 December 2010 Amnesty International report titled A Blow to Humanity criticises the increasing use of judicial canings in Malaysia and claims the punishment "subjects thousands of people each year to systematic torture and ill-treatment, leaving them with permanent physical and psychological scars". The report alleges: "In Malaysian prisons specially trained caning officers tear into victims' bodies with a metre-long cane swung with both hands at high speed. The cane rips into the victim's naked skin, pulps the fatty tissue below, and leaves scars that extend to muscle fibre. The pain is so severe that victims often lose consciousness."[1]

Malaysian officials reject the accusation of torture. The Prison Department states that canings are carefully supervised by prison authorities and attended by doctors.

Amnesty International estimates that some 10,000 people are caned each year, many of them for immigration offences. The charity argues the practice could cause long-term disabilities and trauma and said many of the foreigners sentenced to caning did not get legal representation or understand the charge. Those who are caned are tied to a scaffold while wearing only a loincloth and specially trained officers are paid a bonus for each stroke.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "57 years jail and 12 strokes for raping relative". The Star (Kuala Lumpur). 30 April 2008. 
  3. ^ "2008 Human Rights Report: Malaysia". US Department of State. 25 February 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Yip Yoke Teng (20 February 2005). "The hand that wields the cane". The Star (Kuala Lumpur). 
  5. ^ Kent, Jonathan (23 March 2005). "Malaysia's floggers get pay rise". BBC News Online (London).
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Corporal punishment in Malaysia, World Corporal Punishment Research.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b c d
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Damis, Aniza (27 June 2005). "The pain is in the shame", New Straits Times (Kuala Lumpur).
  18. ^
  19. ^ Looi, Elizabeth (25 July 2009). "Malaysia in heated debate over caning of woman", The Straits Times (Singapore).
  20. ^ "Kartika's sentence put on hold due to 'doubtful' implementation". New Straits Times (Kuala Lumpur). 13 November 2009. [dead link]
  21. ^ Ahmed, Saeed (1 April 2010). "Lawyer: Malaysia commutes woman's caning sentence". 
  22. ^ "Kartika says she would rather be caned". The Malaysian Insider. 1 April 2010. 
  23. ^ "Malaysia canes women for adultery", (Qatar). 18 February 2010.
  24. ^ "We deserved punishment", Mail Online (London). 21 February 2010.
  25. ^ Pakiam, Ranjeetha (18 February 2010). "Malaysian Groups Condemn Caning of Women in Shariah Sex Case". (New York). Bloomberg. [dead link]
  26. ^ "Sisters condemns caning of 3 Muslim women (Letter to the Editor)". SinChew (Kuala Lumpur). 18 February 2010. 
  27. ^ Current legality of corporal punishment.
  28. ^ Uda Nagu, Suzieana. "Spare the rod?", New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 21 March 2004.
  29. ^ Chin, V.K. "Caning of schoolgirls is nothing new", The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 4 December 2007.
  30. ^ Lau Lee Sze, "Girls should be caned too but do it right", The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 29 November 2007.
  31. ^ Chew, Victor. "Use the cane only as a last resort, teachers", The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 26 July 2008.
  32. ^ Unicef Malaysia: Lessons in violence nurture shame and more violence for children.
  33. ^ New straits times: Seeking solution to a punishing task.
  34. ^ Malaysia to revive caning in schools.
  35. ^ Caning can still be carried out.
  36. ^ "Canings in Malaysian prisons out of control, says Amnesty International". The Herald Sun (Melbourne). Associated Press. 6 December 2010. 

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