A new law in Indonesia’s Aceh province that imposes up to 100 lashes of the cane for “crimes” such as same-sex sexual activity and sex outside marriage is an enormous step backwards for human rights, Amnesty International said.
The Aceh parliament today passed the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code, a bylaw which criminalizes a range of acts – including same-sex sexual activity, sex outside marriage and “being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a marriage partner or relative” (khalwat). Those found guilty could face caning, imprisonment or fines imposed by Islamic courts.
“This bylaw should never have been passed and is an enormous step backwards for human rights in Aceh – the Aceh parliament should immediately repeal or revise the provisions of the bylaw which violate human rights,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
“Laws that criminalize sex outside marriage violate the right to privacy and are used disproportionately to police and punish women’s choices. They also act as a deterrent to women reporting rape and sexual violence who may fear being accused of sex outside marriage.”
“The criminalization 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.”
“Caning is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that is clearly prohibited under international law. Victims not only experience pain and humiliation, but also often face long-term physical or psychological scars.”
At least 156 people have been caned in Aceh since 2010: in 2010 at least 16 people were caned for gambling, khalwat and selling food during the Ramadan fasting month; in 2011 at least 72 people were caned for alcohol consumption, gambling and khalwat; in 2012 at least 43 people were caned for gambling and khalwat; in 2013, at least eight people were caned for gambling; in 2014, up to 22 September, at least 17 people have been caned for gambling.
In 2009, the Aceh parliament passed the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code (Qanun Hukum Jinayat) which provided for stoning to death for “adultery” and caning of up to 100 lashes for same-sex sexual relations and premarital sex. However, the Aceh Governor refused to approve this code and it was not implemented, in part because of intense criticism at local, national, and international levels. The stoning sentence which was initially included in the revision of the code has since been removed. However the new Criminal Code, passed today, continues to impose caning as a form of punishment.