Indonesia | Gay men caned in front of 300 cheering people


Two gay men have faced the pain and humiliation of being caned in front of a cheering crowd in Indonesia, simply for having consensual sex in private.

On Tuesday, hundreds of enthusiastic people gathered in a mosque courtyard in the capital of the Aceh province. They came to watch the victims standing on a stage as they received their sentence of more than 80 lashes each.

A number of people in the crowd cheered and expressed their support for the punishment as the men were caned. “Let this be a lesson to you,” one of those watching cried out, reported the BBC. “Do it harder,” another man shouted out.

The men, both in their early twenties, were sentenced to 85 lashes last week by a Sharia court after they were “legally and convincingly proven to have committed gay sex”.

The couple were among a group of around 10 people who received lashes for other morality crimes on Tuesday, including showing affection outside marriage.

The men were at home in Banda Aceh on 28 March when a mob of religious vigilantes forced their way in and dragged the naked couple out into the streets. In video footage posted widely on social media, the terrified men were abused as they were taken to the police.

Speaking to journalist Rebecca Henschke before the caning, one of the men, a medical student, revealed that his planned career was in ruins after he was expelled by his university because of the arrest.

“I just want the caning to be over and to go back to my family, I have been deeply depressed,” he said. “I am trying to pull myself out of a deep black hole.”

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Josef Benedict, described the sentence as “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment [that] may amount to torture”. He added: “Every human being has a right to privacy, a right to enter consensual relations, and a right to physical protection.”

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. It is believed that this was the first time that the sentence was meted out in the province.

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

On Sunday, police raided a sauna and gym in Jakarta and arrested 141 men, including the owner and staff, for taking part in what the authorities called a “gay sex party”.

In October last year, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told the BBC that the police must protect LGBTI people and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone”.

Matters have only escalated since he made the statement and Widodo has remained silent as outrage mounts around the world.

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