What Is Caning?
Caning is a form of judicial corporal punishment involving the official whipping of the convicted offenders with a cane made of rattan, which becomes very flexible when wet. The physical punishment is generally applied on the buttocks, palm, or rarely, the soles of the feet. Most caning sentences are of between three to six strokes, and the Singapore Criminal Procedure Code lays down that 24 strokes is the maximum that can be ordered.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, caning used to be a common judicial punishment throughout Europe and North America, but has now been banned in most countries. The practice, however, is still retained in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.
In Malaysia, there have been calls for caning to be introduced for illegal bike racers, snatch thieves, traffic offenders, men who desert their wives, perpetrators of get-rich-quick schemes, and vandals. In Singapore, caning is mandatory for over 40 different offenses, including rape, robbery, possession of offensive weapons, vandalism, the sale or import of fireworks, and certain drug-trafficking cases.
Malaysia is a special case as it has separate Islamic religious courts operating under Sharia (Syariah) law that is applicable only to Muslims. Under this judicial system, canings are ordered for "sins" such as adultery or drinking alcohol. Unlike canings in the mainstream judicial system, smaller rotan is used here and is applied with much less force, because the purpose of the punishment is to be a symbolic act of shame rather than to inflict serious physical pain.
Click here to view video clips of judicial caning in Malaysia.
Click here to view a staged reconstruction of a caning.