Australia, New Zealand raise concern regarding caning of gay men in Indonesia
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Australia, New Zealand raise concern regarding caning of gay men in Indonesia

THE FOREIGN MINISTERS of Indonesia’s neighbours Australia and New Zealand have expressed concern regarding the implementation of corporal punishment against two men convicted of gay sex in the Southeast Asian nation’s conservative province of Aceh.

On Wednesday, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee expressed “ongoing and real concern” for the situation of Indonesia’s LGBT community. A cross-party group of parliamentarians are seeking a meeting with Indonesia’s ambassador, reported The New Zealand Herald.

A statement from Australia’s Julie Bishop on Tuesday said the minister had “raised with the Indonesian government Australia’s serious concerns about the caning of two gay men under Shariah law in Indonesia’s Aceh province.”

SEE ALSO: Indonesia: Aceh publicly shames couple for gay sex

“Earlier this month, the Australian government recommended Indonesia reject discrimination on any grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity during Indonesia’s United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review,” it said.

Indonesia’s semi-autonomous province of Aceh implements strict Shariah law into its penal code, handing down corporal punishment for offences such as selling alcohol and sex outside of marriage, including homosexuality.

The two men caned on Tuesday – aged 20 and 23 – are the first two to be punished under Aceh’s laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy. They were sentenced to 85 lashes, a sentence reduced to 82 lashes because both men had spent time in prison.

The BBC Indonesia’s Rebecca Henschke, who met one of the men the day prior to their punishment, said, “He was terrified and his whole body was shaking. He was thin, pale and had a red rash on his skin.”

Observers reportedly cheered and heckled as the public punishment took place on Tuesday, with one man calling to “do it harder.”

In early May, both Australia and New Zealand expressed concern over growing religious intolerance at Indonesia’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

SEE ALSO: Death penalty, religious intolerance focus at Indonesia’s UN rights review

Australia joins Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, the Czech Republic and Austria in explicitly calling for the country to better protect its marginalised LGBT groups.

Its delegation recommended “Indonesia intensify efforts to respect and uphold freedom of expression, assembly, and religion and belief, and to prevent discriminatory on any grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Australia and New Zealand prioritise maintaining healthy diplomatic relations and have significant international development programmes in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. The former has previously clashed with Indonesia over its implementation of the death penalty for drug offences.

Australia is one of the largest foreign aid donors to Indonesia alongside the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, providing almost AUD400 million (US$300 million) for 2016-17.

The country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Penny Wong called the canings “deeply disturbing.”