TWO men have been
caned 83 times each in
the Indonesian province
of Aceh after being
caught having sex.
The men stood on
stage in white gowns
praying while a team
of hooded men lashed
their backs with a cane.
The pair, aged 20 and
23, were found in bed
together by vigilantes
who entered their
private accommodation
in March. They have
not been identified.
Gay sex is not illegal in
most of Indonesia but it is
in Aceh, the only province
which exercises Islamic law.
It is the first time gay men
have been caned under
Sharia law in the province.
The punishment was
delivered outside a
mosque in the provincial
capital of Banda Aceh.
A large crowd of
observers cheered as the
caning took place. “Let
this be a lesson to you,”
one of the men watching
cried out. “Do it harder,”
another man yelled.
Earlier, an organiser
warned the crowd not to
attack the men, saying
“they are also human”.
The men were sentenced
to 85 strokes but the
number was reduced by
two because they had spent
two months in detention.
I met one of the young
men in jail a day before the
caning, the first journalist
to speak to him. He was
terrified and his whole
body was shaking. He
was thin, pale and ha a red rash on his skin.
Inmates surrounded us
with intimidating glares as
we tried to talk. I thought
we were going to be
speaking in a private room,
but he was not granted that.
Before neighbourhood
vigilantes broke down the
door to his rented room,
he was in his final years of
a medical degree – his plan
was to be a doctor. Now
we are told the university
has kicked him out.
Videos of the raid that
caught him and his partner
having sex have been widely
shared online. In the mobile
phone footage they are both
naked, pleading for help.
“I just want the caning
to be over and to go back
to my family, I have been
deeply depressed. I am
trying to pull myself out of
a deep black hole,” he said.
The countries that
cane their convicts
Aceh was granted special
rights to introduce its own
stricter Islamic laws more
than a decade ago, and
has become increasingly
conservative in recent years.
Strict laws against
homosexuality were passed
in 2014 and came into
effect the following year.
In the past public
caning sentences have
been handed down
only for gambling
and drinking alcohol.
Indonesia has historically
largely been tolerant of
homosexuality, but has
witnessed increasing
official and social hostility
towards its small and
low-profile LGBTQ
community in recent years.
Earlier this month,
Indonesian police arrested
14 people in the city of
Surabaya for allegedly
holding a gay party.
They could face charges
under ambiguous antipornography
laws.
On Monday, 141 men
were arrested – including
a British man – in a raid
on what police said was
a “gay party” at a sauna
in the capital, Jakarta,
on similar charges. Most
were released on Tuesday.
Rights groups have
strongly criticised
prosecutions of people
involved in samesex
relationships, and
the use of caning.
Amnesty International
said every human was
entitled to a right to
privacy and to have
consensual relations, but
that the two men had been
ambushed in their home.
It said caning was a
“cruel, inhuman and
degrading punishment”
and may amount to
torture and called on the
Acehnese authorities to
abandon the practice.


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