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17 May, 2017 11:10

2 Indonesian men sentenced to 85 strokes in public caning for gay sex

2 Indonesian men sentenced to 85 strokes in public caning for gay sex

An Indonesian Islamic court has sentenced two young men to 85 strokes of a cane each for having sexual relations, marking the first time the penalty for homosexuality has been used in the conservative Aceh province.

The couple, aged 20 and 23, will both face the strokes in a public caning after being found guilty of breaking strict Sharia regulations against homosexuality.

“The defendants are proven to have committed sodomy and are found guilty,” Reuters quotes the presiding judge in the Banda Aceh court, Khairil Jamal, as saying in a statement.

The convicted men will be publicly caned in the province’s capital Banda Aceh on May 23 before the fasting month of Ramadan starts, according to the lead prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by single name.

The prosecution had initially requested 80 lashes for the defendants, since “they were young and admitted their guilt”, Australia’s ABC reports

Under Islamic criminal law anyone found guilty of being engaged in same-sex intercourse faces the maximum punishment of 100 strokes.

One of the men, neither of whom have been identified, reportedly cried as his sentence was read out.

“Please reduce my sentence,” said one of the accused, when asked if he agreed with the ruling.

International human rights groups voiced their outrage with the sentence and called the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating, calling for their immediate release.

“This is barbaric – this is another low point for Aceh, and also for Indonesia,” Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, said

Human Rights Watch said in April that public caning would constitute torture under international law. 

The group had called on Indonesia’s authorities to release men who face “public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.”

“The verdict will increase fear among LGBT people not only in Aceh, but also in many other, especially conservative, provinces ... in Indonesia,” Harsono added.

The court’s ruling on Wednesday coincided with the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), marked on May 17.

The two men were arrested in late March when the group of neighborhood vigilantes, suspecting the pair of homosexuality, broke into one of the men’s home. The vigilantes filmed their raid, showing the two caught in bed.

Aceh province is the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that has seen enforcement of Sharia by-laws since 2006 and its application to non-Muslims since 2015. Besides morality offenses such as gay sex and adultery, the caning also covers gambling and consuming alcohol.

Aceh was given special authorization to implement punishment under Sharia code in concession made by the central government to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) separatists to end to a decades-long civil war.