Since Aceh enacted a new Islamic criminal code in October 2015, more than 530 people have been publicly flogged, including hundreds of men and women punished for “victimless crimes” such as such as gambling and extramarital kissing, the Human Rights Watch reports.
The punishments included the flogging of two gay men convicted of same-sex relations in May and the caning of a woman charged with adultery in September 2017, both of which garnered international attention.
Aceh is the only one out of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that are allowed (through a “special status” agreement in 1999) to adopt a bylaw derived from sharia law that not only applies to Muslims, but also to the 90,000 or so non-Muslim residents in the province.
In September 2014, the Aceh parliament approved the bylaw, which created new discriminatory offences that do not exist in the Indonesian national criminal code. Among the punishment stipulated in the bylaw are 100 lashes and up to 100 months in prison for consensual gay sex and also 100 lashes for sex outside of marriage.
According to human rights watch activist and researcher Andreas Harsono, Aceh’s bylaw are problematic as it contradicts the Indonesian constitution. “The Principles of the Islamic Bylaw violate the right to freedom of religion enshrined in the Indonesian constitution and international law by effectively requiring all Muslims to practice the Sunni tradition of Islam,” he said.
Harsono called on President Joko Widodo to challenge the regulations, “Jokowi should uphold Indonesia’s international legal obligations and abolish discriminatory sharia regulations and their barbaric punishments.”