A Malaysian man is facing trial for allegedly seducing another man's wife _ a charge under a rarely used law that defense lawyers criticized Wednesday as archaic and tantamount to sexual discrimination.
A decades-old law dating from the British colonial era calls for a two-year prison sentence for any man who "entices away" a married woman with the intention of having sex with her.
The law was invoked for the first time since the 1980s when businessman Ryan Chong initiated a criminal case against Choy Khin Ming earlier this year. Chong accused Choy of having a 14-month affair with his wife, television celebrity Daphne Iking, between 2007 and 2008.
A Kuala Lumpur Magistrate's Court had been scheduled to hear the case Wednesday, but it was transferred to the High Court, which Choy's lawyers said was more suited to hear a case that involves complicated constitutional issues.
"The most important issue is the validity of the law itself," said Choy's lawyer, Akberdin Abdul Kader. "The law is totally archaic."
The law might be considered unconstitutional because it violates the principle of gender equality and is based on the "assumption that women are mere chattels and incapable of a rational choice as to their male companionship," according to the defense lawyers' written statement submitted to the court.
Women's rights groups in recent months have also criticized the use of the law. However, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said there were no immediate plans to abolish it because it was so rarely invoked.
The charge had only been used a few times in Malaysian history, but no case went to a full trial, Akberdin said.
Choy, a sports apparel company manager, was present in court but declined to comment. He pleaded innocent to the charge in April.
Neither Chong nor Iking attended the hearing, which has attracted wide media attention partly because of Iking's popularity as a talk show host.
Iking has reportedly separated from Chong. Choy's lawyers say she is also not currently seeing Choy, but they declined to confirm whether the two were ever in a romantic relationship.