Authorities in Indonesia's Aceh province have publicly caned two men for having sex with each other. The punishment has come to symbolize a wave of officialized homophobia in the archipelago nation.
On Tuesday, religious police in Indonesia caned two men for having sex with each other, which became a crime in 2014. Hooded algojo-algojo - or executioners, a term left over from the Portuguese colonists - inflicted 83 lashes on each as hundreds of people watched.
Abdul Gani Isa, a member of the Acehnese clerics' council, called the caning "a lesson for the public." He added: "Lessons carried out with our Shariah law are conducted in a very thoughtful way, are educational and do not violate human rights."
Last week, the Shariah court had sentenced each man to 85 strokes, but they ultimately received 83 a piece as credit for the time that they had already spent in prison. Members of the crowd cheered and shouted as a team of five torturers took turns whipping the wincing victims, aged 20 and 23, across their backs.
'Inhuman and degrading'
Tuesday's beating marked the first time that Aceh, the only province in Indonesia to practice Shariah law, has caned people for homosexuality. Authorities also caned four heterosexual couples, applying fewer strokes for the lesser crime of displaying affection outside the confines of marriage.
Aceh also canes people for gambling, drinking alcohol, wearing tight clothes if they're women and skipping Friday prayers if they're men. The province meted out its punishment to more than 300 people in 2016.
Amnesty International had urged authorities not to flog the men, calling caning a "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" and noting that it "may amount to torture."
According to the US-based Human Rights Watch, the caning does meet the definition of torture under international law. HRW had called on Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to intervene, apparently to no avail. The president's spokesperson declined to comment on the caning.
Over the past year, politicians and clerics have worked to stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer-identified people in Indonesia. The caning comes just two days after police in the capital, Jakarta, detained 141 men, including several foreigners, at a sauna party promoted as The Wild One. Although the government has not criminalized nonnormative sexuality outside of the Aceh province, police said they could charge 10 of the men arrested at the party under the country's broad anti-pornography laws.
mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)