Two women in Malaysia have been caned after having consensual same-sex relations.

On 12 August this year, the Terengganu Shari’a High Court sentenced the two woman to a fine of RM3,300 (£633) and caning after being convicted of attempting to have consensual same-sex relations with each other.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and the Human Rights Watch reports that discrimination against LGBTQ people is “pervasive” in the country.

The women, aged 22 and 32, were caned six times each in a courtroom in Terengganu state, and the punishment was reportedly witnessed by family members and government officials.

According to the BBC, this is the state’s first conviction for same-sex relations, and its first public caning.

“This is a terrible day for LGBTI rights, and indeed human rights, in Malaysia,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher.

“To inflict this brutal punishment on two people for attempting to engage in consensual, same-sex relations is an atrocious setback in the government’s efforts to improve its human rights record.

“The caning of the two women is a dreadful reminder of the depth of discrimination and criminalization that LGBTI people face in the country. It’s a sign that the new government condones the use of measures that amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, much like its predecessor.

“As long as draconian legislation which criminalises Malaysians based on their sexual orientation and gender identity remains on the books, LGBTI people will continue to be at risk of this type of punishment.”

They added: “People should not live in fear because of who they are who they love – the Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments, and ratify the UN Convention against Torture.”

Several members of parliament in the country have expressed their outrage at the punishment, including Charles Santiago, an MP from the Malaysian state of Selangor, who called it a “violation of international human rights”.

“We need to stop targeting the LGBT community. We need to stop invading their privacy. We need to stop abusing them. We need to grow up as a society and learn to embrace diversity,” he wrote.