Indonesia Sentences Gay Couple to Caning
An Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time.
The move further undermines the country’s moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy.
The court said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each be subjected to 85 lashes for having sexual relations. One of the men wept as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. The sentencing coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Trans-phobia.
The chief prosecutor, Gulmaini, said they will be caned next week, before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan starts about May 25.
The couple was arrested in late March. Neighborhood vigilante broke into their rented room to catch them having sex. The lead judge, Khairil Jamal, said the men were “legally and convincingly proven to have committed gay sex.”
He said the three-judge panel decided against imposing the maximum sentence of 100 lashes because the men were polite in court, cooperated with authorities, and had no previous convictions.
“As Muslims, the defendants should uphold the Shariah law that prevails in Aceh,” Jamal said.
International human rights groups have described the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating. The group is calling for their immediate release.
Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to practice Shariah law. Aceh implemented an expansion of Islamic bylaws and criminal code two years ago that extended Shariah law to the province’s non-Muslims and allows up to 100 lashes for morality offenses including gay sex and sex between unmarried people.
Human Rights Watch says the Aceh laws violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2005.
Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam has been battered in the past year due to attacks on religious minorities. Earlier this month, the outgoing Jakarta governor, a minority Christian, was sentenced to two years in prison for campaign comments deemed as blaspheming the Quran.