The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has called for the abolition of corporal punishment in both civil and syariah laws.
This follows the caning of two women in Terengganu under syariah law for attempting sexual relations.
"Suhakam reiterates that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Convention Against Torture prohibit torture and other forms 'cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment' and this includes corporal punishment.
"Suhakam calls for a repeal of such punishments in all laws, both civil and syariah, to be in compliance with international standards," said its chairperson Razali Ismail.
Razali said the decision by the Terengganu Syariah Court was deplorable for imposing "not only a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," but also for executing the caning publicly, in the presence of the media.
He said the punishment was intended to humiliate as much as it was to injure the reputation of the women and their families.
"While Suhakam is aware that the law provides for punishment by caning, the court ought to have exercised judicial discretion, in accordance with the principles of compassion, mercy and human dignity in Islam.
"Suhakam does not accept that the choice and mode of punishment were intended to educate because a cultured, civilised, moderate and progressive society would not resort to fear and humiliation as a legitimate method or tool for education," he said.
Razali also pointed out that during a recent review by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), it was emphasised that Muslim women in Malaysia were disadvantaged by the chosen interpretation of the syariah law.
He said this led to Muslim women not being able to progress on par with women of other faiths, even with the constitutional guarantee of equality.
"Despite international criticism, the government and Parliament have not taken any tangible step for change on the ground.
"Suhakam cautions the government that undermining Malaysia's international human rights obligations rather than to uphold them would not be in the best interest of progress and success," he said.