Indonesian religious court sentences two gay men to 85 lashes

A caning in Banda Aceh (Pic: VOA)

Two gay men found “guilty” of having sex in Indonesia have been sentenced to 85 lashes in public with a cane.

The men, both in their early twenties, were at home in Banda Aceh on 28 March when a group of vigilantes forced their way in and dragged them to the police.

Cell phone video footage of the raid, apparently shot by one of the vigilantes and circulated on social media, showed one of the terrified and naked men visibly distressed as he called for help on his cellphone.

On Wednesday, a Sharia court sentenced the men to the painful, degrading and humiliating punishment, despite international condemnation.

Ironically, the sentence was passed as the world marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The men are expected to be caned next week.

The Guardian reports that one of the three judges, Khairil Jamal, said the men were “legally and convincingly proven to have committed gay sex”.

One of victims cried in court as the sentence was read out. The judge noted that the men avoided the maximum penalty of 100 lashes because they had been polite in court, had cooperated and had no previous convictions.

The sentence makes a mockery of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s statement last year that the police must protect LGBT people and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone”.

Kyle Knight, LGBT rights programme researcher at Human Rights Watch, earlier described the sentence as “grotesque”.

He said the case was “a test of Indonesia’s core national values” and questioned President Widodo’s claim that the country represented “Islam and democracy going hand in hand”.

Said Knight: “These young men are two Indonesians who wanted nothing more than to live their lives and have their privacy respected… A pluralist president like Jokowi should recognise the right thing to do here is to spare these two the rod.”

While homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, the national government allowed the Aceh province to introduce a by-law in 2014 through which those found guilty of homosexuality face up to 100 lashes.

Despite Indonesia’s reputation as a moderate Islamic country, there’s been an alarming spike in discrimination against LGBT people since January 2016, including intimidation and harassment by religious extremist groups.

Government officials have also pressed for discriminatory anti-LGBT measures and censorship against the LGBT community has become increasingly strict.

Last month, the Indonesian police not only arrested 14 gay men for allegedly watching pornography in private but also released their HIV test results to the public.

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