Asia / Faith and religion

Indonesian region OKs whipping for gay sex, adultery

Indonesia map shows Aceh province. (Map courtesy of PBS.org)

Indonesia map shows Aceh province at the northwest tip of Sumatra. (Map courtesy of PBS.org)

The Indonesian province of Aceh on Sept. 27 approved a bill that converts  strict Islamic Sharia rules on morality into the province’s criminal law, including a punishment of 100 lashes for homosexuality and extramarital sex, Australia’s SBS News and BuzzFeed reported.

The law, which also applies to non-Muslims, also punishes the drinking of alcohol, gambling, and mixing between men and women, SBS News stated.

Aceh won autonomy — and the right to impose Sharia codes — in 2001 as part of a deal to end a long-running fight for independence from Indonesia, making it one of the few places in Southeast Asia under Sharia laws, BuzzFeed reported. The small Southeast Asian state of Brunei has come under intense pressure after imposing an even more severe set of rules earlier this year, BuzzFeed said.

SBS reported:

Ramli Sulaiman, chairman of an Aceh parliamentary commission that drafted the law, said proving extramarital and gay sex would be difficult.

“There must be clear evidence and four witnesses who saw the act themselves,” he said.

“We can’t just accuse people of having extramarital or homosexual sex.”

The law also applies to non-Muslims, but they can choose to be punished under sharia law or secular national law, he said.

Amnesty International criticised the law as “an enormous step backwards for human rights”.

“Laws that criminalise sex outside marriage violate the right to privacy and are used disproportionately to police and punish women’s choices,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director.

“They also act as a deterrent to women reporting rape and sexual violence who may fear being accused of sex outside marriage.”

Amnesty said at least 156 people have been caned in Aceh since 2010 for offences such as gambling, mixing with the opposite sex and selling food during the Ramadan fasting month.

Officials said canings are mainly intended to humiliate rather than hurt the offenders.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province allowed to impose sharia, as part of the central government’s attempts to pacify a clamour for independence.

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, deputy mayor of Banda Aceh (Photo courtesy of Acehterkini.com)

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, deputy mayor of Banda Aceh (Photo courtesy of Acehterkini.com)

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the deputy mayor of Banda Aceh, the province’s capital, had been pushing for the legislation since at least May 2014, according to the Jakarta Globe.

“There is no law that could be used to charge them,” the newspaper quoted Illiza as saying. “The existing [regulations] only stipulate about khalwat [being in close proximity] for intimate relations between unmarried males and females.” Banda Aceh’s Shariah Police have struggled to crack down on same-sex relationships, Illiza said. Couples meet in rented rooms and pursue relationships under a veil of secrecy, she said.

“Even if one case of homosexuality found, it’s already a problem… we are really concerned about the behavior and activities of the gay community, because their behavior is deviating from the Islamic Shariah,” Illiza stated.

The Aceh proposal continues a legislative and human-rights struggle that has been going on for years. As the Star Observer of Australia reported in 2009:

“In 2002 the Indonesian Government granted legal autonomy to Aceh, allowing the province to institute Islamic Sharia law, a framework that explicitly punishes homosexual acts.

“It was subsequently reported that 52 regions across the islands of Sumatra and Java adopted laws prohibiting homosexuality, including the city of Palembang in South Sumatra where punishment includes jail and fines.

“Indonesian lobby group Arus Pelangi launched a campaign against these regional statutes in October 2006. Many LGBT people are arrested and detained, often without charges or clear reason, only to be released after a few days, Arus Pelangi spokesman Widodo Budi said.”

For more information, reach the full BuzzFeed article, “Gay And Extramarital Sex To Be Punished With 100 Lashes In Indonesia’s Aceh Province” and the full SBS News article, “100 lashes for extramarital and gay sex in Aceh.”

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