Crowds in Indonesia watch gay couple publicly caned

By: Euan Black - Posted on: May 23, 2017 | Current Affairs

Two days after police in Jakarta arrested 141 men suspected of taking part in a gay sex party, two men were publicly caned on Tuesday in Aceh province

A man is whipped in front of the public as punishment for being in a same-sex relationship in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, 23 May 2017. Photo: EPA/Hotli Simanjuntak

Two gay men were publicly caned on Tuesday for being in a same-sex relationship in Indonesia’s Aceh province, where homosexuality has been banned since 2014. It was the first time the law has been enforced.

The couple were found guilty of committing sodomy and sentenced to 85 strokes of the cane last week, after local vigilantes burst into their home in March and attempted to film them having sex.

The father of Muhammad Habibi, one of the men being caned, told the Australian that he shared the belief that his son had done wrong but was deeply disturbed by the nature of the punishment, which was cheered by a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

“He has sinned, but must he be punished like this?” he said.

“I can’t understand how this has happened. Have I failed as a parent? I sent him to Banda Aceh to study but maybe he got mixed up with the wrong people. He has learned his lesson. He is remorseful. But seeing him in pain like this is very hard for me.”

Others were even less sympathetic.

“For the LGBT movement to come and infiltrate our beloved land is unacceptable. I hope this sends a message they’re not welcome here,” 45-year-old banker Munawar Hasan told the Australian.

“Homosexuality is a curable disease, it is very forbidden in Islam,” Zubaidah, a 20-year-old female college student remarked to the Straits Times during the caning.

The punishment, which US-based Human Rights Watch has said “constitutes torture under international law”, comes two days after police arrested 141 men for attending a ‘gay sex party’ in Jakarta. While homesexuality is only illegal in Aceh province, authorities arrested the men on the basis that they had violated its harsh anti-pornography laws by putting on a live strip show for members of the public to enjoy.

The arrests demonstrate the growing influence of radical Islam in Indonesia, a shift that Anies Baswedan, the former minister for education and culture and traditionally moderate Muslim candidate, exploited to win the recent gubernatorial election in Jakarta.