The Governor of the conservative Indonesian province of Aceh admits its recent stint in the international news may be the reason very few people have signed up for a local marathon.
Aceh is the only province in the majority Muslim Indonesia that is allowed to practice the strict Sharia Law.
The province has come under fire for its treatment of LGBTI people.
Most recently, 12 trans women were rounded up from hair salons across North Aceh. Their hair was forcibly shaved by police who also demanded they ‘live like men’ before releasing them from custody.
In 2017, two men in their early twenties were sentenced to caning for being gay and sodomy. They received 82 lashings, which was the first time anyone had been convicted of homosexuality in Indonesia.
Even Aceh politicians have spoken out against the LGBTI community. Last week, federal politician Muslim Ayub said he believed LGBTI should be sentenced to death or jailed for life.
In an attempt to boost tourism to the area, Aceh hosts an annual marathon but only 200 people have registered so far. Organizers were hoping to attract 4,000 people to the race.
Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf admitted the low number of registrations might have something to do with the province’s treatment of LGBTI people. He conceded the controversy of forcing Muslim flight attendants to wear hijabs when they fly in to Aceh might have something to do with it as well.
‘It’s because of misunderstandings about the clothing, it’s [taking place in] Sabang, we do not require all female runners to wear hijab or male runners to wear turbans,’ Irwandi told Kompas.
The marathon will be held in the idyllic northern area, Sabang. That part of Aceh has more relaxed rules for foreigners. But clearly, that has not convinced people to compete in the Aceh Marathon.