One of two Indonesian men is publicly caned for having sex, in a first for the Muslim-majority country where there are concerns over mounting hostility towards the small gay community, in Banda Aceh on May 23, 2017. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP via Getty Images)
A gay couple in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, was forcibly dragged out of their homes to a police station and now run the risk of being lashed 100 times all because of their “illegal sexual orientation”.
Signalling the depth of anger felt towards LGBT+ people in the republic, a crowd of locals stormed the home of 26-year-old MU and 34-year-old TA in Kuta Alam neighbourhood on November 14.
According to AsiaNews, the pair will now be tried by a Koranic court in the provincial capital within the next 20 days.
Provisions of the province’s Islamic penal code, the Qanun Jinayat, also mean that the men face a maximum prison sentence of eight years as well asa fine of one kilogram in gold.
In a single province of Indonesia, queer people live in fear of public floggings.
The provicine is the only patch of Indonesia where Sharia law is imposed, becoming a vacuum for LGBT+ rights where sharia-supporting fundamentalists wield power. Chaffing against Indonesia’s histoy as a relatively moderate Muslim country.
Against roaring crowds, the practise of publicly flogging queer people has long been condemned by LGBT+ rights acivists. The brutality and visibility of the punishments routeinly act as flashpoints for advocay groups to rally around, fuelling internaional outcry.
If convicted by the courts, it will likely reopen festering wounds among queer Indonesians and foreign activsts. In 2017, two gay men aged just 20 and 23 were sentenced to being flogged in front of the public in Aceh.
Canning is a common punishment in Aceh, covering all sorts of crimes, including gambling, sex out of wedlock and the consumption of alcohol. Around 1,000 people, both local residents and tourists, attended the 2017 canning – a similar scene witnssed again in 2018.
Chiefs of the Human Rights Watch, one of the top LGBT+ advocacy groups in the world, have called on Indonesia president Jokowi Widodo to ban the punishment.
“The clock is ticking for Jokowi to demonstrate that his support of equal rights for all is not empty rhetoric,” said Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director.
“He needs to start by protecting these two young men from torture.”
“Jokowi needs to be clear to Aceh’s authorities that flogging is torture for which they will be held to account,” he added.