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Worried about bad PR, Indonesia wants to keep its unlawful canings a secret

Worried about bad PR, Indonesia wants to keep its unlawful canings a secret

One of the gay men being caned in Aceh. Photo: (Rakyat Aceh/Jawapos.com) Indonesian

After an international outcry over the public caning of two gay men in Aceh, the province will make future canings private.

In May, two men in the early 20s were caned 83 times after being convicted of homosexual acts. They were caned in a public square in front of more than 3000 onlookers.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province which is allowed to enforce Islamic Sharia by-laws. Homosexuality in the rest of Indonesia is not illegal.

Irwandi Yusuf is Aceh’s new governor has vowed to put an end it public floggings. He wants to move the punishment behind closed doors to avoid more bad PR for Aceh.

On Tuesday, Irwandi and his Vice-Governor Nova Iriansyah met with Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.

Jokowi was concerned the canings were attracting negative international attention and could affect foreign investment in Indonesia.

‘There’s the real perception and the one from outside the country, which is is not very good. Because of that, the President asked how the government of Aceh could explain that it was not like how it was being perceived,’ Nova told Okezone.

Rather than ban the canings which violate international law, Aceh will take them out of the public eye. Canings will be carried out behind closed doors.

End caning now

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an end to caning in Aceh.

‘But now Irwandi, recently elected governor for a second time, seems to be trying to gloss over a barbaric violation of basic rights,’ said Kyle Knight, HRW’s researcher, LGBT Rights Program.

‘The government should be abolishing this brutal punishment and the abusive laws that allow it, not whitewashing flogging to mollify squeamish investors.

‘He should make it clear to Irwandi that hiding abuses is not the same as ending them, and that the moral outrage over public floggings was not a one-time reaction. The world is watching.’

Warning: violent images