Indonesia: A video, showing a naked young man, who is sitting and awaiting arrest by local sharia police, has been shared on social media. In the video, one of the men appears distressed and confused. “Brother, please, help me, help me. We are caught.” he says into a mobile phone.
This would be the first time Aceh’s new statutes concerning religion and morality could be enforced against homosexuality. That’s why this case is drawing international attention and condemnation.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, is the country where 71 percent of Indonesians would like the official imposition of Muslim law. When Indonesia gained independence, it early leaders rejected a proposal to establish a justice system based on sharia (Islamic law). Aceh is the only region in Indonesia, a plural democracy, which allows local authorities to maintain parallel laws and police forces based on religious interpretations.
The two men, reportedly aged 20 and 24, were caught on 28 March by unknown men who forcibly entered a home. Local bylaws allow this kind of citizen’s arrest and the men are now being held by sharia police.
Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh had passed the anti-gay law in 2014 that punishes anyone caught having gay sex with 100 lashes. Banda Aceh's religious police enforce the province's strict sharia code. Human Rights Watch says these new statutes and punishments violate human rights treaties to which Indonesia is a party, and has asked President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to intervene.
“The agreement which granted Aceh the legitimate right to form its own local bylaws did not allow them to persecute people for their religion or sexuality,” said Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Indonesia. “Across Indonesia today, we are seeing rising discrimination in the name of Islam, including against women and LGBT community.” Human Rights Watch has demanded their immediate release, saying their possible punishment – a public beating with a stick – constitutes torture.
Photo Credits: Public Radio International