Confronted with international outrage over the public flogging of gay men, the Indonesian province of Aceh has moved the floggings indoors.
Now Indonesia Wants to Hide Its Floggings
Global Outrage Over Public Caning of Gay Men Spurs Sly Rethink
By Kyle Knight
The authorities in Aceh – Indonesia’s only province that implements full Sharia (Islamic law) – clearly feel stung by the international outcry they generated when police publicly flogged two gay men in May. Their solution, it appears, is to put an end to public floggings.
Instead, they’re just going to flog people indoors, away from the cameras.
Aceh’s position within Indonesia is unique. A 30-year separatist armed conflict seeded deep distrust between Acehnese and the national government. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami led to a ceasefire that soon ended the war but wrought unprecedented devastation. A 2005 peace agreement made Aceh the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that can legally adopt bylaws derived from Sharia – although such provisions, modeled on Aceh’s, are spreading nationwide. The province’s 2014 criminal code prohibits all same-sex relations and mandates public caning as punishment.
Under its Sharia bylaws, Aceh caned 339 people last year for offenses ranging from gambling to adultery. The May caning of two gay men, who received 83 lashes each, appears to be Indonesia’s first public caning for homosexuality and sparked considerable international outrage. Flogging as punishment is also recognized under international law as a form of torture, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred Acehnese authorities so far. So what prompted the decision to end floggings in public?
Media reports suggest that Acehnese leaders are now worried that videos of May’s flogging, which were widely circulated online, make the province unappealing for investors.
In 2014, I interviewed Aceh’s former governor, Irwandi Yusuf about his white-knuckle escape from the tsunami and his 2007 election victory. A proud former rebel, Irwandi has long opposed Sharia’s more extreme laws, and he even refused to sign a draft Sharia bylaw in 2009 that would have allowed adulterers to be stoned to death.
But now Irwandi, recently elected governor for a second time, seems to be trying to gloss over a barbaric violation of basic rights. The government should be abolishing this brutal punishment and the abusive laws that allow it, not whitewashing flogging to mollify squeamish investors.
Meanwhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who maintains that Indonesia is a beacon of moderation and tolerance, has failed to protect the rights of the country’s beleaguered minorities.
He should make it clear to Irwandi that hiding abuses is not the same as ending them, and that the moral outrage over public floggings was not a one-time reaction. The world is watching.
- Indonesian Muslim leader urges boycott of pro-LGBT Starbucks (July 2017, 76crimes.com)
- International coalition targets Indonesia’s anti-LGBT abuses (June 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Commentary: Indonesian police fuel anti-LGBT hysteria (June 2017, 76crimes.com)
- LGBT repression grows in Indonesia, with 141 arrests, public caning (May 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Caning law pushes Aceh’s LGBT further underground (December 2015, Aljazeera)
- Indonesia Police Arrest 141 Men Accused of Having Gay Sex Party
(May 22, 2017, New York Times)
- Indonesia keeps persecuting its LGBT citizens (April 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Study: Anti-LGBT bias costs Indonesia up to $12 billion (March 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Indonesian police push anti-LGBT militant Islamic agenda (January 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Indonesia Muslim hardliners break up what they think is gay sex party (November 2016, Reuters)
- Outcry after Indonesian police allow anti-gay raid
- Indonesian president: Police must defend LGBT citizens
- Indonesians push to prohibit gay sex, unmarried sex (August 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Activists to Indonesian leaders: Stifle anti-LGBT officials (February 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Indonesia: Detention, ‘rehab’ for 2 women who hugged (October 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Archive of this blog’s coverage of Indonesia