Indonesia must release gay couple who face being tortured


Caning in Banda Aceh (Pic: VOA)

Two men who were kidnapped by religious fanatics face receiving 100 lashes for being gay in Indonesia.

The men, both in their twenties, were at home in the Aceh province on 28 March when a group of vigilantes forced their way in to detain them for allegedly having sex.

Cell phone video footage of the raid, apparently shot by one of the vigilantes and circulating on social media, shows one of the men visibly distressed as he calls for help on his cellphone.

“Please brother, please stop,” one of the men says in the video. “My parents want to talk to you, they can pick me up.” Aceh’s Sharia (Islamic) law empowers members of the public as well as the special Sharia police to publicly identify and detain anyone suspected of violating its rules.

The men were then taken to the police and have been detained at a Sharia police facility in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. The authorities say that the couple “confessed” to being gay and are to be sentenced.

Under Aceh’s provincial Islamic Criminal Code, they face up to 100 lashes in public, a punishment that constitutes torture under international law, as well as being further jailed.

“The arrest and detention of these two men underscores the abuse embedded in Aceh’s discriminatory, anti-LGBT ordinances,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia division director at Human Right Watch. “These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.”

A growing wave of anti-LGBT sentiment

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 and up to 100 months in prison.

There has also been a general spike in discrimination against LGBT people across Indonesia since January 2016, including intimidation and harassment by religious extremist groups. In November 2016, police arrested 13 men at a gay party, despite them breaking no law.

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

Human Rights Watch called on Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to back up his October 2016 statement that police must protect LGBT people.

“President Jokowi should urgently intervene is this case to demonstrate his stated commitment to ending discrimination against LGBT people,” Kine said. “Jokowi then needs to act to eliminate Aceh’s discriminatory ordinances so these outrageous arrests don’t happen again.”

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