A Muslim Malaysian woman’s sentencing to a caning and a 5,000 ringgit ($1,400) fine for drinking beer in public was changed to a community service sentence today. According to CNN, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, who pleaded guilty, was originally sentenced in July to six strokes by a rattan cane after she was caught drinking beer at a resort in December 2007.
However, Shukarno’s case originally caught the attention of the media and civil rights activists because she would have been the first woman ever to receive a caning in Malaysia, reported Al Jazeera. Sultan Ahmad Shah changed Shukarno’s sentence to community service Wednesday night. The three-week community service sentence begins Friday, during which time Shukarno will be separated from her two children, who both require special medical care.
Approximately 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million citizens are Muslim, and alcohol consumption is forbidden under sharia law. Malaysian court decisions are made by both Islamic lawmakers and civil courts. A decision made by the Islamic court may be overruled by a sultan, as in the case of Shukarno, but not by a civil court.
Only three Malaysian states- Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan- use caning as punishment for alcohol consumption by Muslims. Caning is usually implemented for harsher crimes, such as drug dealing, kidnapping and so forth, reported Al Jazeera.