Aceh ‘gay’ men face lashing

A human rights group has called on Indonesia to release two men detained in Aceh province under a regional law criminalising homosexuality.

By Taylor McDonald – 2017-04-10

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a gang of vigilantes burst into a Sumatran home last month and brought two men found there to the police for alleged homosexuality. The pair, in their 20s, have been held at a Wilayatul Hisbah, a Sharia police station in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital.

The chief inspector said they had confessed to being gay and would face sentencing.

Under Aceh’s Islamic Criminal Code (Qanun Jinayah), they face up to 100 lashes in public, which HRW said amounted to torture under international law.

“The arrest and detention of these two men underscores the abuse imbedded in Aceh’s discriminatory, anti-LGBT ordinances,” said Phelim Kine of HRW. “These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.”

Aceh is the only Indonesian province where same sex is illegal, however, the entire Indonesian LGBT community is currently facing the threat of criminalisation.

Aceh’s Sharia laws empower the special Sharia police and vigilantes to publicly identify and detain anyone suspected of violations.

In October 2015, Sharia police arrested two teenage girls on suspicion of lesbianism after they embraced in public, and held them for three nights in Banda Aceh.

Aceh’s parliament has gradually adopted Sharia, criminalising women who do not wear the hijab, the drinking of alcohol, gambling and those conducting affairs, all of which can be enforced against non-Muslims.

Aceh province imposed the Sharia punishment of multiple lashes with a cane against 339 people last year for offences including gambling, and unmarried men and women being alone together.

Under Indonesian law, the home minister in Jakarta can review and repeal regional laws.

Last June, minister of home affairs Tjahjo Kumolo U-turned on a commitment to abolish abusive Sharia regulations.

In 2012 the then Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin reportedly told the media: “If we ignore it, it will be like an iceberg…Even if one case of homosexuality [is] found, it’s already a problem…[W]e are really concerned about the behaviour and activities of the gay community, because their behaviour is deviating from the Islamic Shariah.”

In 2013, after Illiza became Banda Aceh mayor, she told the media that “homosexuals are encroaching on our city.” In February 2016, she said the LGBT community would be “trained” to return to a “normal life”.