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Saturday, Sep 27, 2014

Asia

Indonesia's Aceh approves caning for gay sex

AFP | Saturday, Sep 27, 2014

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - Indonesia's conservative Aceh province passed a law Saturday making gay sex punishable by 100 lashes of the cane, in a decision described by rights activists as "an enormous step backwards".

Aceh, the only part of the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation that is allowed to implement Islamic sharia law, already carries out public canings for gambling, drinking alcohol and fraternising with the opposite sex outside of marriage.

Lawmakers began deliberations Friday night and unanimously agreed in the early hours of Saturday to pass the law.

The law explicitly outlaws anal sex between men and "the rubbing of body parts between women for stimulation", making homosexuality technically illegal for the first time in Aceh.

Gay sex is not illegal in the rest of the country, which mainly follows a criminal code from the Netherlands, Indonesia's former colonial ruler.

Amnesty International, which has called for an end to caning in Aceh, asked that the bylaw be immediately repealed.

"The criminalisation of individuals based on their sexual orientation is a huge blow for equality in Indonesia," said Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director Richard Bennett, who added that it would increase "the climate of homophobia, fear and harassment many in Aceh are already facing".

Chika Noya, an independent activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia said the law was "as if we're going back hundreds of years".

Aceh, which lies on the westernmost tip of the vast Indonesian archipelago, gained a degree of autonomy in 2001 in a deal with Jakarta aimed at quelling a decades-long separatist movement, and has been slowly implementing sharia law ever since.

The bylaw will also be the first in Aceh to be applied to non-Muslims, both Indonesians and foreigners.

The law also makes adultery punishable by 100 lashes, and reiterates that displays of affection outside of marriage are outlawed, and is also punishable by caning.

Canings - which are carried out with thin rattan sticks in public and are aimed at humiliating, rather than causing physical pain - can be substituted with payments of pure gold or jail time.

The law must also be approved by the home affairs ministry in Jakarta, which indicated last week it may overturn the law on rights concerns.

But Ramli Sulaiman, a local lawmaker who heads the commission that drafted the bill, said all relevant agencies in Jakarta had given it the green light.

Spokesman for the leading Aceh Party, Muhammad Harun, said the bylaw made sharia law in Aceh more complete.

"This bylaw has been highly anticipated by the people of Aceh, who have long wanted to see complete Islamic law on the veranda of Mecca," he said after the session, using a description often used for the province.

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