Use a pill, go to jail

In Malaysia, a little Viagra-enhanced nooky could land you in the pokey.

Published October 19, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

October 18, 1999, 9:00 p.m.

Is Malaysia competing with the United States as the new capital for sexual scandal? If its stringent sex laws continue to be enforced, there are sure to be plenty of scandals -- sex or no sex. Such was the unfortunate fate of two middle-aged, unmarried Malaysians who found their sexy rendezvous nipped in the bud when vice officers of the state's Islamic Affairs Department raided their Malacca hotel room Friday.

Only a sarong and a towel sheltered the respective private parts of the 42-year-old woman and her 60-year-old male paramour, reported the national Bernama news agency. This informal apparel seemed suspicious to the Muslim police, who then inspected the chamber for additional clues. Potent proof was quickly obtained when the vice officers discovered an opened packet of the male erection drug Viagra. More incriminating yet, of the four-pill packet, only two pills remained. Were the absent two swallowed to induce sinful virility?

The Islamic court system immediately charged the coitally interrupted couple with two serious sexual offenses. "Khalwat," the crime of "being in close proximity," carries up to two years in jail or a fine of 3,000 ringgit, which is approximately $790 U.S. "Attempted illicit sex," the second charge, applies to any unconsummated intercourse between Malaysian couples not married to each other. This crime of passion commands an even stiffer penalty: up to three years in jail or 5,000 ringgit. The judge has ordered the unrequited elders to remain in custody until sentencing this Wednesday.

While those unknown lovers languish in jail, the sex scandal surrounding one of Malaysia's most famous leaders continues its sorry saga. The High Court is due to announce its decision on whether to reopen the trial of Anwar Ibrahim. Last year the charismatic political rival of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad was sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly sodomizing his wife's former driver in 1993. He has remained in custody ever since.

Most international observers regard the evidence against Anwar as an absurd fabrication, drummed up by cliques supporting the nation's tyrannical ruler, but to date such international disapproval has not helped Ibrahim and it probably won't help a couple of unnamed lovers sampling Viagra.

By Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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