In April, a same-sex couple was arrested for homosexuality in Aceh, Indonesia — the most religiously conservative Muslim province in the southeast Asian country — and was subsequently sentenced to receive 80 lashes from a cane in public on May 23. Now the human rights group Amnesty International is asking Aceh’s government to revoke the punishment, calling it a “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” that “may amount to torture.”
This particular case involves a 20-year-old man and his 23-year-old lover. The 20-year-old’s neighbors saw the other man enter the 20-year-old’s flat and reportedly barged in, filming the naked men on their camera phones and calling them “dogs.” Afterwards, the neighbors called the local police who arrested the men. The men are reportedly the first Indonesians ever to receive a public caning for homosexuality.
Even though Indonesia is one of the top five destination countries for same-sex honeymoons and doesn’t criminalize same-sex sexual activity, homosexuality is illegal in Aceh. A 2014 penal code outlawed same-sex relationships between male and female couples in Aceh, making it punishable by caning, 100 months in jail or a $35,000 fine. Aceh police have also arrested lesbians for hugging in public and have arrested transgender Indonesians just for loitering.
The rest of Indonesia has become increasingly anti-LGBTQ in the recent past. Approximately 93 percent of Indonesians oppose homosexuality; the Indonesian Psychiatrists Association classifies LGBTQ identity as a mental disorder; the country’s ministers consider LGBTQ people a security risk and have started passing laws forbidding businesses from hiring LGBTQ people and forcing LGBTQ people into so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy.
Last year, an Indonesian-based queer rights organization, Arus Pelangi (“Rainbow Flow”) set up a safehouse in Jakarta to provide emergency services to queer Indonesians in need, but their efforts have suffered from a lack of funding, partly due from the fact that they receive no governmental support.
(Featured image by Devrimb via iStock Photography)