Indonesia: Detention, ‘rehab’ for 2 women who hugged

The Associated Press reported on Oct. 3:

2 suspected Indonesian lesbians to undergo ‘rehabilitation’

Indonesia, with Aceh at the North-West tip of Sumatra island (map courtesy of
Map of Indonesia, with Aceh at the North-West tip of Sumatra island (Map courtesy of

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Two suspected lesbians detained earlier this week by Islamic Shariah police in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province will undergo what an official described Saturday as “rehabilitation,” and won’t be charged with a crime.

The women, 18 and 19 years old, were taken in for questioning Monday night by Sharia police officers who saw them sitting and hugging each other in Ulee Lheue, a coastal neighborhood in the capital, Banda Aceh, according to the law enforcement Shariah police chief, Evendi Latief.

“They later confessed to be a lesbian couple and that was supported by pictures found on their handphones,” Latief said.

The two women, identified only by the initials “AS” and “N,” will not be charged because a new criminal code for Aceh that criminalizes homosexuality won’t take effect until later this month, he said. Under that code, any person found guilty of homosexuality could face up to 100 cane lashes or a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of fine gold or imprisonment of up to 100 months. Indonesia’s national criminal code doesn’t regulate homosexuality.

“They will undergo rehabilitation which involves psychologists from local Social Ministry office,” Latief said. …

Indonesia’s central government granted Aceh the right to implement a version of Shariah law in 2006 as part of a peace deal to end a separatist war. People convicted of adultery, gambling and consuming alcohol already face caning, as well as women wearing tight clothes and men who skip Friday prayers. …

Latief denied that the women were arrested and that their human rights were violated. He said they were held for four days for questioning and then handed over to the regular police.

For more information, read the full article from AP.

Shortly before the women were freed, Human Rights Watch called for their unconditional release:

Abolish Arrests for Public Hugging, Discriminatory Laws

(New York) – – Indonesian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release two women arrested on suspicion of being lesbians in Aceh province, Human Rights Watch said today. The arrests under Islamic bylaw are contrary to the rights to nondiscrimination and fundamental freedoms under Indonesia’s constitution and international human rights law. …

Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT program for Human Rights Watch
Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT program for Human Rights Watch

“The arrest of two women in Aceh for everyday behavior is an outrageous abuse of police power that should be considered a threat to all Indonesians,” said Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program director at Human Rights Watch. “The Indonesian government needs to press Aceh to repeal its discriminatory new by-laws.” …

Aceh’s criminal code, which went into effect in September 2014, prohibits lesbianism and sodomy. These offenses do not exist in the Indonesian national criminal code. The Acehnese by-laws extend Sharia, or Islamic law, to non-Muslims, and the criminal code permits punishments of 100 lashes and 100 months in prison for consensual same-sex sex acts.

Under national legislation stemming from a “Special Status” agreement brokered in 1999, Aceh is the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that can legally adopt by-laws derived from Sharia. Human Rights Watch opposes all laws or government policies that are discriminatory or otherwise violate basic rights.

Aceh’s parliament drafted the Principles of the Islamic By-law, while the province’s official Islamic Affairs Office drafted the Islamic criminal code. These by-laws apply not only to Aceh’s predominantly Muslim population, but to about 90,000 non-Muslim residents, most of them Christians and Buddhists, as well as domestic and foreign visitors to the province.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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