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Couple receive 77 lashes for gay sex in Indonesia

Rights groups condemn punishment against men carried out in front of their parents

Couple receive 77 lashes for gay sex in Indonesia

A file image of a public flogging in Indonesia's Aceh province. (Photo: YouTube)

Two gay men were caned 77 times in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Jan. 28 after being caught having sex, officials said.

The men, aged 26 and 34 but not named, were flogged in public in front of at least 100 people, including their parents, in provincial capital Banda Aceh.

The conservative province has Sharia-based bylaws where several offenses, including homosexuality, are punishable by flogging. Homosexuality is not illegal in other parts of Indonesia.   

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Their original 80-lash sentence was reduced by three as they had served a three-month prison term after being arrested by Sharia police in November last year in a rented house in Kuta Alam subdistrict following a tip-off from the landlord, reports said.

Heru Triwijanarko, acting head of the Banda Aceh public order agency and Sharia police, said the two men were among six people caned that day.

The punishment, during which the men pleaded for the caning to stop and the mother of one of them fainted, was condemned by rights groups.

“[It] shows us once again how discriminatory enforcement of Sharia has been used to torture this gay couple,” Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told UCA News.

“It has a chilling effect on the basic rights to security and freedom of expression for Aceh’s deeply marginalized LGBT community.” 

Kyle Knight, an LGBT rights campaigner at HRW, said “the floggings are part of a long-standing pattern of targeted abuse by Acehnese authorities against LGBT people.”

In October 2015, he said, Sharia police arrested two teenage women on suspicion of being lesbians for embracing in public and then detained them for three nights before sending them to religious “rehab.”

He also lamented that the country’s slogan “Unity in diversity” fails to genuinely extend protection to everyone, such as the gay men “mercilessly flogged.”

Hartoyo, who heads Suara Kita (Our Voice), a Jakarta-based LGBT advocacy group, denounced the flogging.

“It is a prehistoric, brutal sentence. It really makes me sad,” he told UCA News as he urged the government to take action against bylaws that facilitate human rights abuses.

Aceh province’s Sharia-based bylaw, or Islamic Criminal Code, stipulates that violators will be given the option of being tried in a Sharia court or a regular criminal court using Indonesia’s national penal code. However, if the offense is not regulated under the penal code, even non-Muslim violators may be tried under Sharia law.

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