A Muslim model has brushed aside an appeal by human rights group
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, insisted she is ready to be lashed six times with a rattan cane next week for breaching the Muslim-majority country's Shariah law, which forbids Muslims to consume alcohol.
"I want to respect the law," Kartika said in a telephone interview from her northern home state of Perak. "Who am I to question the Islamic authorities' laws? That is beyond me."
Kartika is to become the first Malaysian woman to be caned in prison after she was arrested in a raid for drinking beer at a hotel lounge last year and sentenced by a Shariah court in July in what was considered a warning to other Muslims to abide by religious laws.
"Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and is prohibited under international human rights law," it said in a statement.
Government lawyer Saiful Idham Sahimi said earlier this week the penalty was appropriate because drinking was a serious offence for Muslims.
Islamic authorities insist that the purpose of the caning is to educate rather than punish. They say the rattan cane to be used on Kartika will be smaller and lighter than the one used for men and that she will remain clothed. The prison official who canes her is also supposed to use very little force.
Men convicted of civil crimes such as rape and bribery in Malaysia are caned on their bare buttocks, breaking the skin and leaving permanent scars.
Kartika said four close relatives, including her father and sister, have requested permission to witness her being caned in a women's prison sometime next week. Officials have indicated the request would be granted, she said.
She also asked for the caning to be done publicly to send a clear message to Muslims that they should shun alcohol, but authorities refused, citing official procedures.
Officials are scheduled to take Kartika to the prison Monday. She will be separated from regular inmates, and she said she plans to bring her own clothes, a copy of the Quran and other personal belongings.
The law provides for a three-year prison term and caning for Muslims caught drinking, but most offenders are fined. Drinking is legal for non-Muslims.