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Indonesia’s Aceh lawmakers approve caning for gay sex

Indonesia’s Aceh lawmakers approve caning for gay sex

Lawmakers in the Indonesian province of Aceh have passed a law Saturday that punishes gay sex with 100 lashes in public and subjects non-Muslims to the province’s strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

According to media reports, the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code explicitly outlaws anal sex between men and ‘the rubbing of body parts between women for stimulation,’ making homosexuality technically illegal for the first time in Aceh.

Gay sex is not criminalized in other parts of Indonesia.

The new law will also make adultery technically illegal for the first time although khalwat (close proximity between an unmarried opposite-sex couple) laws have been used against those accused of committing adultery.

Under current sharia laws, anyone convicted of gambling and drinking alcohol already face caning, as do women wearing tight clothes and people who skip on Friday Muslim prayers.

Aceh, a semi-autonomous region, was given the right to establish Sharia bylaws as part of a peace agreement signed by the central government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) after decades of conflict.

While Aceh residents are predominantly Muslims, the law also applies to non-Muslims and foreigners.

Amnesty International has called the move an ‘enormous step backwards’ for human rights and called on Aceh to repeal or revise the provisions of the bylaw.

‘The criminalisation of individuals based on their sexual orientation is a huge blow for equality in Indonesia, and violates the country’s international human rights commitments. This law will only add to the climate of homophobia, fear and harassment many in Aceh are already facing,’ Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director, said in a statement on Saturday.

While the AFP reports that the bylaw must also be approved by the home affairs ministry in Jakarta, which has reportedly indicated last week it may overturn the law on rights concerns, Aceh is a semi-autonomous region that was given the right to establish Sharia bylaws.

An Aceh-based activist told Gay Star News: ‘The central government has authority to review and repeal local laws (including sharia laws) however they seem little concerned about it.’

He added that the National Commission on Violence against Women has reccommended that the government review approximately 200 discriminatory bylaws however most those laws remain in effect.

The Jakarta Globe reported that in 1999, then-President BJ Habibie granted the province of Aceh a special status and the right to partially implement Sharia laws but did not stipulate how Islamic law would be implemented.

Two years later, then-President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed into law an autonomy package that included comprehensive regulations on establishing Sharia courts and Sharia bylaws.