Indonesia Will Stop Caning Gay Men—But Only In Public

The Aceh province, which is governed by Sharia law, doesn't want to seem unappealing.

Following global outrage, Indonesia will put an end to public floggings, Human Rights Watch reports. Instead, they will cane people behind closed doors and away from cameras.

Although homosexuality is technically not a crime in most of Indonesia, the semi-autonomous northern province of Aceh, which has been governed by Sharia law since 2001, adopted a measure in 2015 that punishes same-sex relations with up to 100 lashes. The lashings, which are carried out by hooded officers using a rattan cane, are incredibly painful and often leave permanent scars.

Aceh caned 339 people last year for offenses such as gambling to adultery, but the caning of two gay men in May, which appears to be Indonesia’s first public caning as a punishment for homosexuality, attracted unwanted international attention.

Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

The gay men, ages 23 and 20, were given 83 lashes each in front of some 3,000 spectators. The men had been arrested in March after neighbors barged into their rented room and detained them while police arrived.

Acehnese leaders such as governor Irwandi Yusuf are reportedly worried that videos of these public floggings, which have been widely circulated, will make the province unappealing for potential investors.

While homosexuality remains legal in the rest of the country, LGBT residents face social censure, as evidenced by recent raids targeting gay men in Jakarta and Surabaya.

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President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has defended LGBT rights in Indonesia, but the country has seen an increase of anti-LGBT statements from militant Islamic government and religious officials calling for the criminalization of homosexuality, as well as escalating anti-LGBT harassment and violence.

As part of the country’s crackdown on homosexuality, government officials have called to ban LGBT emojis and LGBT apps such as Grindr. Male actors have also been banned from behaving and dressing as women on television.

A police chief in West Java, Indonesia’s most populous province, recently announced plans to deploy a task force whose sole operative will be to identify and persecute LGBT citizens.

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