Two men aged 20 and 23 were arrested by Sharia religious police in the Aceh region of Indonesia for homosexuality. The two young men’s privacy was breached when vigilante neighbours broke into the apartment, videotaped the men being sexually intimate, violently assaulted them, and called the religious police. If found guilty, the two men will face 100 lashes and public humiliation. While others have been caught on suspicion of homosexuality, all have been released due to lack of sufficient evidence. These two men will be the first individuals to be charged under Aceh’s controversial Islamic bylaws which heavily penalize public morality offences.
OutRight Action International’s recently released report, Creeping Criminalization, outlines that Aceh’s Sharia bylaws do not align with the country’s national level laws or the constitution, neither of which criminalize homosexuality. The central government of Indonesia granted regional autonomy to principal governments of provinces beginning in 2000, including Aceh in 2005. This allowed provincial level governments to impose conservative regional regulations including those that police morality and, in Aceh, punishing these offences with caning, fines and prison. Adultery, extramarital sex, and homosexuality are all criminalized by the Sharia law in effect in Aceh, and women are forced to adhere to Muslim dress codes, even if they are non-Muslim.
Grace Poore, OutRight Action International’s Asia Program Coordinator commented saying,
“Aceh’s leaders chose to go with the most draconian interpretation of Islam instead of the moderate approach—and are enforcing severe punishments on people of Aceh who don’t obey sharia-based laws and policies regarding every aspect of life, from how to dress, worship, do business, and form human relationships. The Central Government of Indonesia should enforce its own directive to Aceh—that sharia law is to be implemented within the framework of the Indonesian national legal system.”
Countless people have been caned for breaching Aceh’s morality laws including a young 20 year old woman who was lashed 26 times for khalwat, which outlaws two individuals of the opposite sex, who are not bound by marriage or family, to have sex, hold hands or even be in close proximity.
Sharia law in Aceh allows policing by the public leading to an environment of fear and oppression.
Indonesia has seen an increased wave of state sponsored homophobia and transphobia since 2016. Grace Poore’s Huffington Post article, “Indonesians Targeted And Criminalized For Indecency and Immorality,” notes that “The campaign began as an effort to ban lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations from Indonesian campuses, but escalated rapidly. Government officials and fundamentalist organizations began an all out attack on LGBT people, proclaiming LGBT people as morally depraved and mentally ill, condemning LGBT groups as a national security threat, a proxy war worse than a nuclear attack, and propagating LGBT people as a danger to children.”
Alarmingly, since the homophobic and transphobic campaign an anti-LGBT bill has gained support among Parliamentarians in Indonesia. If the bill passes, same sex consensual relations will for the first time be criminalized at the federal level in Indonesia.
The Indonesian President Joko Widodo was mainly silent during the anti-LGBT campaigns, however he came out in October 2016 to say that homosexuality should not be criminalized and that LGBT Indonesians should be protected from violence.
Published on April 13, 2017 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization