After vigilantes raided their room, two men in Aceh face threat of caning over alleged homosexual acts

An Acehnese man convicted of ‘immoral acts’ prepares for his public caning in Banda Aceh on June 12, 2015. Photo: AFP/Chaideer Mayhuddin
An Acehnese man convicted of ‘immoral acts’ prepares for his public caning in Banda Aceh on June 12, 2015. Photo: AFP/Chaideer Mayhuddin

While the rest of Indonesia waits to see whether the government will pass a new criminal code making homosexual acts illegal, the semi-autonomous region of Aceh continues their persecution of LGBT individuals unabated with the arrest of two men who were raided by vigilantes and turned over to the sharia police last week for allegedly engaging in consensual sex.

Police said the two young men, both reported to be university students in their early twenties, were together inside a private room inside a boarding house in Darussalam, Aceh Besar, on Thursday when a group of locals broke into the room on suspicion that they were committing immoral acts in violation of Aceh’s Islamic Criminal Code.


The two men were also reported to the local police by the vigilantes, who arrested then and turned them over to the sharia police for further investigation.

Police said it was the vigilantes who “secured” evidence of their crime at the scene and handed it over to investigators, including condoms and the two mens’ mobile phones. Officers said that, upon initial questioning, one of the men admitted to committing a homosexual act while the other denied the charges.

Based on the latest media reports about the case the two men are both still under investigation.

In a statement released today, international NGO Human Rights Watch asked that the Indonesian government “immediately and unconditionally” release the two men, as well as a man and transwoman who were also raided by vigilantes and turned over to sharia police about three weeks ago.  

“These vigilante raids and arbitrary detentions underscore the abusive and discriminatory nature of Aceh’s criminal code,” said Graeme Reid, director of HRW’s LGBT rights program. “Acehnese authorities should release the four and protect the public from marauding vigilantes who target vulnerable minorities.”

As noted in HRW’s statement, all four could face up to 100 lashes in public under Aceh’s criminal code – a punishment that constitutes torture under international human rights law.

While the province has long been hostile to LGBT rights, corporal punishment for homosexual acts was only introduced in 2015. The first such conviction under the new law saw two men caned 82 times each about one year ago.

A draft revision of Indonesia’s Criminal Code (RKUHP) that includes laws potentially criminalizing homosexual acts is currently tabled for discussion in Indonesia’s House of Representatives, but discussion on the bill will resume soon and activists are worried that a growing atmosphere of intolerance fueled by increasingly conservative politics will allow the bill to be passed with the provisions targeting LGBT rights intact.

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