Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia's highest court has ruled that couples who indulge in public shows of affection such as hugging and kissing can face imprisonment and hefty fines, reports said Wednesday.
The Federal Court ruled to uphold an existing law against indecent public acts, in an appeal of case where a young couple was fined by local authorities in 2003 for kissing and hugging in a public park.
The couple, who at that time were aged 23 and 21, had opposed the actions of the city council, saying that it was their right to freedom of expression, and launched an appeal.
However, the court's panel of three judges on Tuesday defended the law, saying that the couple's actions had offended members of the public.
'Is it moral in our society as Asians to kiss and hug in a public place? We need to remember that (our) rules were not made in foreign countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, where such acts are accepted by society,' Chief Judge Ahmad Fairuz was quoted as saying by the Malay-language Berita Harian daily.
'What about the rights of the people around who saw their act?'
The young couple, who are ethnic Chinese, were charged with indecency, and if found guilty they face a fine of up to 2,000 ringgit (533 dollars) and one-year jail sentences.
Their case was strongly debated, with human-rights activists and opposition members calling for the abolition of the law, warning of abuse of power by city council officers.