Indonesia: Proposed bylaw would make homosexuality punishable by flogging

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Gay and lesbian citizens of a conservative province of Indonesia could be subject to public lashings, under a new bylaw being pushed by the provincial capital’s deputy governor.

Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, said that homosexuality was “a social disease that should be eradicated,” and pushed for harsh bylaws against any sexual behaviour which goes against the region’s adherence to Islamic Shariah Law.

Illiza complained that, under current law, the police were not able to punish same-sex couples. “There is no law that could be used to charge them,” she said. “The existing [regulations] only stipulate about khalwat [being in close proximity] for intimate relations between unmarried males and females.”

She went on to voice the difficulty faced by Shariah Police at cracking down on same-sex relationships, as couples meet secretly.

The Aceh Legislative Council (DPRA) will discuss the proposed changes to bylaws in the province, including one which would criminalise homosexuality, and make it punishable with 100 public lashes.

Speaking to the Jakarta Globe, Illiza said she was prompted to take action by a 2012 survey on HIV transmission rates in Aceh, but said all she could remember was that some of the respondents told the surveyors that they were gay.

“If we ignore it, it will be like an iceberg,” Illiza said. “Even if one case of homosexuality found, it’s already a problem… we are really concerned about the behavior and activities of the gay community, because their behavior is deviating from the Islamic Shariah.”

A gay rights advocate, Hartoyo, spoke out against the proposed bylaw, said that Islam is open to interpretation, and that the new bylaw would represent “a move backwards for civilisation”.

“We’re living in 2013, not in the Middle Ages,” said Hartoyo, secretary-general of Our Voice, an LGBT advocacy group. “It’s sad to have a deputy mayor who could think that way… other countries have started to allow homosexual marriage, why coming up with such idea to punish the LGBT [community]?”

Hartoyo also doubted that Shariah Police would be able to find enough evidence to convict same-sex couples under the proposed law.

“[Even] the definition of adultery under Islam is hard to prove,” he said. “To punish the adulterer there should be four witnesses who saw with their own eyes the penetration. How could we find four witnesses who clearly saw that?”

He went on to accuse the Deputy Mayor of failing to properly understand the issue, and said the proposed punishments were antiquated.

“Caning as a sentence is a punishment from the old ages,” he continued. “People are born as transgenders and homosexuals. What’s the reason to punish them? Punishing them means she could not appreciate God’s creations.”

Hartoyo said he planned to send the Deputy Mayor a letter pointing out the flaws in the proposed law, and voicing his opposition to it.

“I will probably send her a warning letter [saying] that what she did only publicly showed how stupid she is,” he said. “She’s intellectual and has access to the Internet and other resources. To come up with that way of thinking is embarrassing.”

Back in March, a judge in Indonesia’s constitutional court issued an apology after making a statement against equal marriage during proceedings at the House of Representatives.