Indonesian province introduces severe penalties for homosexuality

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Aceh, a devoutly Muslim province of Indonesia, has passed new laws allowing heavy punishments for homosexuality, adultery and alcohol consumption.

Under the new laws, those convicted of homosexuality may face public lashings and up to eight years in prison.

For married people found guilty of of adultery, the penalties are even greater, with the harshest being stoning to death.

Aceh is a semi-autonomous region and has the power to decide its own laws. It currently abides strictly by Sharia law and the latest bill reinforces this.

The decision to allow regions semi-autonomous power was made by the central government in 2001 in an attempt to pacify separatist rebels.

Indonesian local authorities were granted the right to use Islamic law, the result being a strict conservative attitude to homosexuality often leading to the prosecution of gays, despite a federal constitution supposed to protect LGBT civil rights.

The move has also led to strict prohibitions on alcohol and gambling in Aceh, while women must wear headscarves.

Human rights groups have condemned the move and the region’s vice-governor Muhamad Nazar has said he opposes stoning to death.

The bill will pass into law in 30 days’ time, two weeks before a new parliament led by the moderate Aceh Party is sworn in.