Two men caned in Indonesia’s Aceh for gay sex

Two men convicted of gay sex were caned Tuesday in front of a crowd of onlookers in Indonesia’s sharia-ruled province of Aceh in the first such case in the devoutly Muslim region. 

A sharia court in the provincial capital Banda Aceh last week found the men, aged 20 and 23, guilty gay sex and sentenced them to 85 strokes of the cane.

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Activists from NGO Laskar Pelangi rally to condemn attacks against sexual minorities

The crowd of about 500 people cheered as the men, who covered their faces with their shirts, were led onto a raised platform in front of a mosque in Banda Aceh, witnesses said.

A hooded man, known as algojo or executioner, administered 83 lashes for each of the men.  Two strokes were deducted from the time they spent in detention.

The couple were the first to be publicly caned for gay sex since a revised Islamic criminal code that criminalizes sex out of wedlock, including homosexual intercourse, took effect in Aceh two years ago.

The men were arrested in late March after residents raided their rented room in the provincial capital Banda Aceh and handed them over to sharia police.

A video posted on YouTube showed a visibly distressed naked man surrounded by residents. In the video, the man tells a relative on the phone that he had been caught doing an “indecent” thing.

Under Aceh’s Islamic criminal code, sex out of wedlock is punishable by up to 100 strokes of the cane. An earlier version of the code did not regulate punishment for such acts.

Canings in the province are usually done in public in the presence of hundreds of people. Officials said caning is intended to humiliate the offenders rather injure them physically.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province allowed to impose sharia as part of the central government’s attempts to appease a drive for independence.

In the rest of the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, gay sex is not formally illegal, but sexual minorities have been under increased attack.

Police raided a gay club in North Jakarta and arrested 141 people, including four foreigners, on suspicion of involvement in gay prostitution and pornography.

At least 126 of them were later released.

“They were not involved in any criminal offence as they were just onlookers,” said local police detective chief Nasriadi.

Ten people, including the club’s managers and organizers of an event featuring a strip show called the Wild One, have been named suspects and will be charged under pornography laws.

Rights activists condemned the arrests after photos of naked and shirtless club-goers being rounded up by police circulated on the internet.

Last month, police in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, raided hotel rooms and detained eight men for participating in a “gay sex party.”

The government has also sought to block gay-friendly mobile apps that it says promote “sexual deviance” and has also asked social networking services to remove emoticons from the Indonesian market which depict same-sex couples.

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