TWO men in Indonesia’s conservative Acheh province face up to 100 strokes of the cane after they were they were reported to Shariah police for having gay sex.
According to the Associated Press, Islamic religious police confirmed that if the men are found guilty, they will be the first caned for gay sex under a new code implemented two years ago.
The men, aged 23 and 20, “confessed” to being a gay couple amid video footage circulating online of the duo, taken by a resident in Bandar Aceh where they the two men were caught.
In the video, one of the men can be seen naked and in distress while he attempts to call for help on his mobile phone. The second man is seen trying to leave the room but is prevented from doing so.
Shariah police’s chief investigator, Marzuki, said residents in Banda Aceh’s Rukoh neighbourhood were suspicious of the duo as they often seemed to be intimate. The residents then set out to catch them in the act.
“Based on our investigation, testimony of witnesses and evidence, we can prove that they violated Islamic Shariah law and we can take them to court,” Marzuki, who goes by a single name, told AP.
It is important to note that though homosexuality is currently not illegal in Indonesia, the Constitutional Court is considering a judicial review to seek the criminalisation of pre-marital sex and homosexual sex.
Public canings happen regularly in Aceh and individuals can be punished for a range of offences including gambling, not adhering to public dress requirements and drinking alcohol.
The Indonesian province began implementing Shariah law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001, in an attempt by the central government to calm a separatist insurgency. Shariah police officers patrol the conservative province in order to sniff out acts deemed immoral.
Indonesian NGO, The Insitute of Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), warned back in February that the practice of caning will continue to rise this year. The ICJR recorded at least 339 people, both men and women, being whipped multiple times in 2016.
The NGO called on the Indonesian government to cease all forms of corporal punishment. This sentiment is echoed by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that claims to have documented abuses linked to the enforcement of Sharia bylaws prohibiting adultery and imposing public dress requirements on Muslims.