Australian senator urges halt to Indonesian aid after ‘barbaric’ lashings of gay men

A federal senator has called on Australia to abolish foreign aid to Indonesia after two gay men were caned 83 times for having sex in the country.

The lashings came the day after 141 men were arrested in Jakarta, the capital, for having a “gay sex party”.

The 20 and 23-year-old, identified only by their initials – MH and MT, respectively – were the first to be sentenced to punishment for gay sex in Aceh, following a spell in prison.

Indonesia is officially a secular country where gay sex is legal, apart from in Aceh, where Sharia law is in effect.

The region won this concession from the government as part of a 2005 autonomy deal that ended a bloody decades-long conflict between Muslim separatists and the military, in which thousands died.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian governor of the capital Jakarta, was also recently imprisoned for blasphemy against Islam, sparking protests and dividing the country.

Australia has allocated $722.6 million in foreign aid to Indonesia over the last two financial years, according to official government figures.

And Senator Derryn Hinch has called on the government to hold these funds hostage until Indonesia takes action to stop such atrocities.

“When Indonesia whips men in Aceh for being gay and jails a former Governor for blasphemy I can’t support foreign aid to that country,” he wrote on Twitter.

Hinch won a seat in the Senate as a representative of Victoria in last year’s federal election less than a year after setting up his own party, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.

In a statement to BuzzFeed, the 72-year-old added that the government ought to suspend foreign aid to one of the country’s closest trading partners to show “disapproval and disgust”.

“Coupled with the jailing of Jakarta’s Christian governor, known as Ahok, for blasphemy earlier this month, the use of this medieval form of punishment indicates that Indonesia’s values far from align with our own,” added the parliamentarian.

The lashings, he said, were “barbaric”.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop’s office said she had raised Australia’s “serious concerns” with the Indonesian government about the canings.

“Earlier this month, the Australian government recommended that Indonesia reject discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity, during Indonesia’s UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review,” Bishop’s office added to BuzzFeed.

Hinch was not satisfied with this response, saying: “Foreign minister Julie Bishop has reportedly raised concerns with the Indonesian government about these canings.

“Well, let’s hit them where it hurts. Suspend aid and the policy might just change.”

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong said that the canings represented “deeply disturbing news”.

“Labour is fundamentally opposed to the oppression of anyone on the grounds of their gender, sexual orientation or their religious beliefs,” she added.

“We would support a clear and unambiguous statement by the government expressing Australia’s firm position on these matters.”

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