By Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa
On January 13, a couple involving an adult male and an adult female, after being charged with adultery in the Aceh province of Indonesia, were punished with public lashings.
The man, who refused to confess to the accusation, received 15 lashes, while the woman, who did confess, received an overwhelming 100. The amount of lashes was so excruciating that she needed a break at one point before continuing on.
The couple were caught back in 2018 at a palm oil plantation where the man was allegedly “showing affection to a female partner who is not his wife.” The “adulterers” were married at the time they were discovered, but not to each other.
One of the possible reasons why there’s such a stark difference in the severity of the punishment between the two was the fact that the accused man was the head of the East Aceh Fishery Agency at the time, and because he denied the charges. Initially, he was sentenced to 30 lashes but his appeal at the Sharia supreme court in Aceh reduced the sentence to 15.
Lashings are a common form of punishment in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that is under Sharia law. In a prior case, a man was given the same number of lashes as the woman because he was with a minor, although unlike the woman, he would then go on to serve 75 months in prison.
Aceh is legally allowed to follow Sharia as part of a 2005 autonomy deal made with the central Indonesian government that ended a decades-long separatist insurgency.
Human rights groups and even Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, condemn public lashings as cruel and have called for it to end. However, it has strong support among Aceh’s population.
Aceh’s relationship to its central government is similar to that of Kano State and the Nigerian central government, where they too are able to practice Sharia and inflict punishment on anyone in violation.