27
Aug
09

b-Whipping-of-a-prison-4a4faa691403

 

CAPITAL AND CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

The Kartika beer drinking offence under the Syariah and the sentence meted out to her viz 6 strokes of the rotan and a RM 5000/ fine have been blown out of proportion mainly because of the inefficiency of the Syariah Courts, the State Religious Departments and the Prisons Department.

If these agencies had better coordinated their decisions and actions, the corporal punishment imposed on Kartika would not have received such bad press and publicity both locally and internationally. There are indeed certain mitigating circumstances in Kartika’s case. Being a woman and a first-time offender there would have been grounds for leniency if she had appealed. However, Kartika chose to be exemplary in upholding the Syariah concept of justice and fairness by paying the fine and being caned. For this we must respect her for not using her womanly status to challenge the law.

Capital and corporal punishment have always been controversial because they are not only viewed as primitive but as ineffective in deterring crime. One cannot say that the Syariah’s interpretation of hudud is the only repressive and archaic group of laws or that its measures are the only ones that are no longer relevant in a world steeped in humanitarian concerns. The death penalty for drug-related offences is one case in point. Without them the community and society including the Islamic community will be in greater disarray.

However, rising crime rates everywhere and in every sphere of life show that there must be more effective ways of instilling values and improving morality than legal punishment or public censure. Religious departments and agencies in the country must put their heads together to come up with better ways of educating and rehabilitating the people – men and women – on their socio-cultural, moral and religious obligations.

What is outstanding about the Kartika case is that one woman’s beer drinking has caught the attention of the Pahang State Religious Department when there are hundreds of other offenders out there, many of them men. Besides, there are more serious cases of abuse, exploitation and corruption in the home, community and society which deserve more time and closer scrutiny than one woman’s downing of beer!

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