Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Punishment of Adultery among the Malays
Extracted from The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register
for British India and its Dependecies (Volume VII), July-December 1819. Published by Kingsbury, Parbury & Allen, Booksellers to the Honourable East India Company.
1786, Feb. 27 — Capt. D. told us a remarkable story of the Malays. While he was trading at Rhea (Riau), the master of the house next to him being upon a voyage, his wife proved unfaithful. Information of this was communicated by a slave to the chief throughout the island. Their houses are close by the waterside, so that they always travel by water; a very little time after the notice was given, three or tour hundred canoes appeared on the water, making towards Captain D's house; he knew not their business, and feared for his life. He armed his servants and himself, and fastened his doors; but when he perceived they came on a visit to his neighbour, he opened his doors: and relates the following particulars.
“As adultery is death without mercy, the adulterers often by opium, or the like, work themselves up to madness, and having armed themselves, issue forth and destroy as many as they can (run amok). This the Malays seemed to fear, as the adulterer defended himself against a multitude for two hours, before they expelled him the house; about a dozen entered at once in search of the offender, and upon the least appearance of him hurried out again, full of terror and anxiety.
At length having succeeded by piercing him a few times with their lances, he came forth and surrendered. He was immediately surrounded; and every man present made a small incision with their lance, and so cut his flesh that before he died there was no part of his body for two inches together which was not mangled in the most horrid manner.
The woman escaped, and fled to the king, threw herself down at his feet, and proclaimed herself his slave (which is the custom of the country, and generally protects them): but in this instance linking could effect nothing: his protection could not screen her from punishment. The friends of the dead man demanded her life; and the people would not suffer his body to be buried till she also was delivered up to justice. The body lay three days exposed before the door, and was only removed when his accomplice had suffered death by strangling.” — Rev. D. Brown’s Journal at Sea.
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