Gay couple given 83 lashes as a legal punishment for having sex
Two men have been caned 83 times as a legal punishment for having gay sex.
The 20 and 23-year-old, identified only by their initials – which are MH and MT respectively – were the first to be sentenced to punishment for gay sex in Aceh, a region of Indonesia.
The punishment comes a day after 141 men were arrested in Jakarta, the capital, for having a “gay sex party”.
The law put into place in Aceh two years ago allows for up to 100 lashes for ‘morality offences’.
During the trial, the couple confessed that they had been dating for six months, according to the Asian Correspondent.
Prosecutors asked for 80 lashes, but the judge decided to increase this already horrific recommendation to 85.
They were given two fewer lashes than their original sentence because they had spent the week in prison.
Andreas Harsono, Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher, said the lashings were not just the first in the country, but the first in south-east Asia.
“Another sad day for LGBT rights in Indonesia,” he wrote.
“Aceh is leading the race to the bottom”.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the mosque in the city of Banda Aceh to watch the lashings, which were also meted out to eight other people who have been convicted of offences in the country.
The audience crowded around them as they arrived at the mosque, making it hard for them to get to the platform.
Once they had been escorted up to the podium, the men put on the long white garb of those to be punished and were commanded to kneel and receive dozens upon dozens of lashes.
The person carrying out the punishment received the benefit of anonymity, unlike the two men.
Indonesia is officially a secular country where gay sex is legal, apart from in Aceh, where Shariah law is in effect.
It is the only province in the Muslim-majority country to have shariah law, having won this concession from the government as part of a 2005 autonomy deal.
The agreement was created to end a bloody decades-long conflict between Muslim separatists and the military in which thousands died.
The men were informed on by their neighbour, who took video footage.
The video shows vigilantes kicking, slapping and insulting the men, according to Agence France-Presse.
During the sentencing last week, the men bowed their heads and covered their faces with their hands.
Asked by presiding judge Khairil Jamal if they accepted the verdict, one of the men reportedly said softly: “Please reduce my sentence”.
The second nodded gently and did not say anything.
Neither of them had any effect.
The judge said while handing down the verdict that since the men had been “proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing gay sex, the defendants are sentenced to 85 strokes of the cane in public”.
In the video, one of the men is seen being repeatedly pushed by another man who prevents the couple from leaving the room.
The other man is naked and visibly distressed as he calls for help on his mobile.
The father of one of the men, who requested anonymity, previously told Digital Journal that he was unaware that his son was not straight before he was arrested.
“This is an ordeal for our family,” he said.
“After this problem is resolved, we will send him to an Islamic boarding school to be educated so he won’t be deviant anymore.”
Indonesia, attitudes towards LGBT people have become steadily more extreme in recent years despite a growing gay population.
Marzuki, head of the Aceh Provincial Sharia Law Department, said residents in the local area had been suspicious of the men because they of their apparent intimacy, and deliberately set out to catch them having sex.
While homosexuality has never been illegal in Indonesia, attitudes towards LGBT people have become steadily more extreme in recent years despite a growing gay population.
The Indonesian Psychiatrists Association classifies homosexuality, bisexuality and being transgender as illnesses.
Earlier this month, eight men were arrested for holding a “gay party” in Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia.
The two alleged organisers of the event could face up to 15 years in prison.
And in January, petitioners argued in the country’s Constitutional Court that sex outside of marriage – such as LGBT sex – could turn Indonesia into an “uncivilised nation” and should be criminalised.
A gay couple from the country’s North Sulawesi province were arrested last year after they posted photos on Facebook showing them kissing in bed.
Also last year, it was announced that the country’s government would clamp down on gay culture – instituting a ban on online “gay propaganda” after a request from the police.
Communications ministry spokesman Noor Iza confirmed that apps including Grindr, Blued and BoyAhoy would be blocked in the country, claiming they were “promoting gay lifestyles”.
Last month, a study found that anti-LGBT discrimination could be costing Indonesia as much as $12 billion every year.
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