Two men who were accused of having sex in their home by their neigbours in Aceh province in Indonesia were publicly flogged 77 times each as punishment by local Islamic religious police. Aceh, is one of the only provinces in Indonesia that implements the Islamic Sharia law and where homosexuality is a crime. 

The incident invited swift condemnation from civil rights activists across the world, even as some LGBTQI activists called for a tourist boycott of Indonesia for its treatment of the queer community. 

The punishment was meted out to the two men – aged 27 and 29 – at Banda Aceh’s Tamansari city park on Thursday. The two cried out in pain asking for mercy, but the Sharia police took turns to cane the two men. Media reports said that one man’s mother who was present for the flogging, fainted as the authorities punished her son.

Men arrested after neighbours broke into their home

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The two men were arrested in November when neigbours called the police after they broke into the couple’s rented house and allegedly found them having sex. The men were jailed for three months – the reason why they had to endure three less strokes of the cane, as they were originally sentenced to be caned 80 times each.

Indonesia’s Aceh province had in 2014 changed its Criminal Code to criminalise same sex relations and punish those caught with public flogging. Aceh’s Sharia laws have criminalised “everything from non-hijab-wearing women, to drinking alcohol, to gambling, to extramarital sex,” according to Human Rights Watch

Civil rights and LGBTQI rights activists called out Indonesia for the “barbaric” practice and the targeting of the queer community. 

‘This is public torture’

“Next time our politicians laud Indonesia for its tolerance, remind them that on January 28, 2021 two gay men were flogged 77 times for their same sex relationship. This is public torture,” tweeted Elaine Pearson, Australia Director, Human Rights Watch.

British LGBTQI activist Peter Tatchell called for a boycott of the country for its anti-LGBTQI campaigns. 

“Young gay couple flogged 77 times in Indonesia for having consenting sex in privacy of their own home. These canings under Sharia law are symptomatic of increased Islamification of Indonesia & rising levels of anti-LGBT+ repression. Boycott Indonesia!” Tatchell posted on social media. 

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American LGBTQI rights advocate and former journalist Wayne Besen called for sanctions against Indonesia. “The US State Department needs to strongly consider harsh sanctions against Indonesia for its barbaric treatment of LGBT people. LGBT people have a right to sex, relationships and a free life without being subjected to torture. A tourist boycott is in order,” said Besen. 

According to Human Rights Watch this is the third incident in Aceh of public flogging of gay men since the law was changed in 2014. While in the rest of Indonesia homosexuality is not illegal, authorities have used pornography laws to target the LGBTQI communities, raid gay bars and arrest people. Earlier this year, Indonesian politicians introduced a law in Parliament to force “anyone ‘suffering’ from ‘sexual deviations’ to seek treatment at government-sanctioned rehabilitation centres.” 

Earlier this month, Indonesia deported two American lesbian women days after one of them posted on social media that Bali was “queer friendly.” 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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