Two young women in Banda Aceh have been arrested for allegedly being a lesbian couple after the two were seen sitting and hugging in a public space.
Located at the northern end of Sumatra, the Indonesian province of Aceh enforces Islamic sharia laws unlike the rest of the country.
Sharia Police’s legislation and Islamic law execution division head Evendi A Latief was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying that the women who have only been identified in the media only as N, 19, from Banda Aceh, and AS, 18, from Makassar were arrested on Monday when they were seen hugging by police on patrol in the Ulee Lheue area.
‘They were sitting and hugging. We suspected that they were lesbians,’ Evendi said on Tuesday.
The two women were still detained at a Sharia Police station as of Tuesday.
He added the police have been unable to contact the women’s parents, said the report which was published by the Post on Thursday.
The Human Rights Watch has called for the women to be released immediately and for the federal government to ‘press Aceh to repeal its discriminatory new by-laws.’
‘The arrest of two women in Aceh for everyday behavior is an outrageous abuse of police power that should be considered a threat to all Indonesians,’ said Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program director at Human Rights Watch in a statement dated 3 October.
Aceh’s criminal code, which went into effect in September 2014, prohibits lesbianism and sodomy which are not illegal under Indonesia’s national criminal code.
The province’s Islamic laws, which also applies to non-Muslims and foreigners, permit punishments of 100 lashes and 100 months in prison for consensual same-sex sex acts.
Aceh is the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that can legally adopt by-laws derived from Sharia due to a ‘Special Status‘ agreement brokered in 1999. Two years later, then-President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed into law an autonomy package that included comprehensive regulations on establishing Sharia courts and Sharia bylaws.