CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the release of four members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community by authorities in the conservative Islamic province of Aceh in Indonesia.
Sharia police in the capital of Banda Aceh made two sets of arrests during March, one on a salon run by transgender women and another on a private home. Under Aceh’s Shariah criminal code, the four could face up to 100 lashes.
“These vigilante raids and arbitrary detentions underscore the abusive and discriminatory nature of Aceh’s criminal code,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“Acehnese authorities should release the four and protect the public from marauding vigilantes who target vulnerable minorities.”
Last May, two men became the first people to be given corporal punishment for homosexuality under Aceh’s Shariah legal code. They were whipped 82 times after vigilantes raided their rental home in Banda Aceh and they were charged with having a same-sex relationship.
Hundreds of others have been caned for other ‘morality offences’ such as selling alcohol, gambling or extramarital relations. The Jakarta-based Institute for Reform of Criminal Justice has said more than 500 people were caned in Aceh from Oct 2016 to Oct 2017.
While Aceh is currently the only part of Indonesia that explicitly outlaws homosexuality, controversial proposed revisions to the national criminal code would impose jailtime for extramarital sex including homosexuality.
A major uptick in anti-LGBT rhetoric and raids in recent years has called into question the tolerant reputation of the largest Muslim-majority nation on earth.
In February, Acehnese police drew criticism from rights groups after they rounded up and arrested 12 transgender women, subjecting them to public humiliation.
Hardline Islamic groups later staged an anti-LGBT protest, which saw the attendance of the provincial mayor Irwandi Yusuf. At the demonstration, Irwandi signed a petition to ban members of the LGBT community from Aceh altogether.
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On March 12, Sharia police raided a salon and seized what they claimed was evidence of same-sex conduct including condoms and “transaction money” from a transgender woman, arresting her and an alleged male customer.
Last Thursday, vigilantes raided a house and contacted Shariah authorities, who arrested two male university students for allegedly having sex. They seized condoms, mobile phones and a mattress as supposed evidence of homosexuality.
“The authorities have already flouted the privacy rights of these individuals,” added Reid. “They shouldn’t make things worse by subjecting them to torture.”