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Amnesty Condemns Caning of Gay Men in Indonesia by Sharia or Islamic law in Indonesia

Amnesty International has called the punishment, meted out by a religious court in the province which adheres to Sharia or Islamic law, a flagrant violation of international human rights law

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Shariah law official whips one of two men convicted of gay sex during a public caning outside a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2017. VOA
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Indonesia, May 30, 2017: As local activists say caning as a punishment in Indonesia’s Aceh province is increasing in use and severity, the public caning of two gay men is being questioned by some residents.

Amnesty International has called the punishment, meted out by a religious court in the province which adheres to Sharia or Islamic law, a flagrant violation of international human rights law and says it “may amount to torture.”

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Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono, the executive director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, told VOA Indonesia that there have been marked changes in the practice of caning in Aceh since last year — the number of those punished is increasing, as is the severity of the sentences.

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“There were at least 350 people caned in 2016 and it’s a significant increase,” he said. “The increase is not just about the number of convicts, but also the severity of the punishments. Caning used to be a social sanction to embarrass or create a deterrent effect, but now to actually harm a person.”

FILE - A police officer escort two men convicted of gay sex to be publicly caned at a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province Indonesia, May 23, 2017.
FILE – A police officer escort two men convicted of gay sex to be publicly caned at a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province Indonesia, May 23, 2017. VOA

Although the punishment drew a crowd Tuesday, not all Acehnese support the practice. Uzair, who was in attendance, told VOA Indonesia that most citizens are skeptical about the implementation of Qanun Jinayat, the part of Sharia that governs the punishment for immoral acts. The section covering same-sex relations, Article 63 (1), states any people found guilty face a maximum sentence of 100 lashes or pay a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of pure gold or face 100-month imprisonment.

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Hundreds of local residents gathered in front of Syiah Kuala Mosque in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, to watch the caning of eight people, including the two gay men who received the most severe punishments.

Wearing white gowns, the two men stood on a stage praying while a team of hooded men lashed their backs with a cane 83 times. The pair, aged 20 and 23, were found in bed together after local residents who suspected they were gay entered their boarding house in March. The men were detained and sentenced to 85 lashes on May 17 by the Banda Aceh Sharia Court, a punishment which was reduced to reflect time served.

They were the first gay men caned under Sharia law in Aceh. Consensual same-sex relations are not treated as crimes under the Indonesian Criminal Code, according to Amnesty International. Sharia bylaws have been in force in Aceh since the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001, and the province fully enacted a strict Islamic criminal code in 2014. It is enforced by Islamic courts.

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“Many Acehnese and even Indonesians are skeptical [about caning] … because it’s only punishing immoral acts such as gambling, drinking, prostitution or gay acts, but never those who are corrupt,” Uzair said.

Two men convicted of gay sex, center, are surrounded as Shariah law officials escort them to a mosque to be publicly caned in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2017.
Two men convicted of gay sex, center, are surrounded as Shariah law officials escort them to a mosque to be publicly caned in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2017. VOA

“This law is only used to punish us, the people, not the officials,” he added, describing a case of a local official caught hiring prostitutes. “He was not punished at all. Our local leader argued that there was no evidence. We are speechless.”

Uzair went on to say people do not speak up about the authorities’ use of Qanun Jinayat.

“We live in an age and area where the silent majority or the voice of the ordinary people are not heard enough, because there are voices of conservative groups who talk loudly,” he said. “If we say something that is considered contrary to their view, we will be accused as infidel or anti-Islam.”

In April after the two men were detained, Widodo’s organization issued a statement against the use of Qanun Jinayat in Aceh, saying the practice had the potential to cause discrimination of the LGBT community and other groups.

“The state has gone too far by interfering on the private affairs of its citizens and making their personal matters a public affair. This will eventually lead to discrimination and injustice against vulnerable groups, including LGBT communities.”

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Road Safety At The Core of Women Empowerment For This Indonesian Startup

It aims to attract 5 million members over the next three years, making Queensrides the biggest women's empowerment platform in Southeast Asia.

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Indonesia, Queensride
Queenrides women members take part in a workshop in Indonesia. VOA

Iim Fahima Jachja cannot operate a vehicle and relies on a driver to get around the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, but that did not stop her from putting road safety at the heart of her women’s empowerment startup.

Since launching in late 2016, Queenrides has attracted 200,000 members to join its website.

Aside from reading articles about lifestyle and financial management, members can also gather in person for workshops covering topics like sexual health and family planning.

But road safety has been a focus from the beginning said, Jachja, a mother of two.

“When you are safe on the road, you can be the best you want to be,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Jakarta.

 

Queensride
Iim Fahima Jachja, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Queenrides, Indonesia. Flickr

 

Road deaths are high in Indonesia, according to the transport ministry, which counted 162,000 fatalities last year, compared to 136,000 in 2015.

In a country undergoing rapid urbanization as incomes increase, more people are buying vehicles, putting stress on the road network.

Many drivers avoid taking tests by paying corrupt officials for driving licenses, said Jachja.

The road risks are rising for women in particular, she said, because changing social attitudes mean that more of them are working and commuting.

At the same time, relatively few women have taken driving lessons and tests to acquire licenses, she said.

Only about 20 percent of 7,500 Queensrides members surveyed said they had taken a driving test.

“This is a major issue – this is a crisis – but people haven’t noticed the situation,” said Jachja about the number of road deaths in Indonesia.

Low-income countries have fatality rates more than double those in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Queensride
Road deaths are high in Indonesia. Wikimedia Commons

There were 104 million registered vehicles in Indonesia, a nation of 238 million people, according to the WHO’s latest report on road safety published in 2015.

Driving Safely

As well as enabling its members to exchange views and learn more about road safety online, Queenrides arranges workshops with input from the ministry of transportation and traffic police.

Participants have gone on to take driving lessons and tests, said Jachja.

That trend could make Indonesia’s roads safer, said Liviu Vedrasco, a road safety expert at the WHO in Bangkok.

“There are some studies that suggest women are more careful and follow the rules better than men,” he noted.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015 is to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020, said Vedrasco.

Queensride
Queenrides women members take part in a workshop in Indonesia. VOA

As the number of female drivers increases, Indonesia’s ministry of transportation has stepped up efforts to reduce crashes involving women by working with outside partners, said Budi Setiyadi, director of land transport at the ministry.

“Queenrides is needed for women riders in Indonesia to be given a good education in driving safely, because women have a primary role,” Setiyadi said in an email. “They can educate their children, their families, and the surrounding environment.”

Growing

As more Indonesian women join the workforce and take to the roads, Queensrides can also help them assert control in other areas of their lives, according to Jachja.

For example, about 30 members gathered last month in child-friendly cafe in Jakarta to discuss family planning, and strategies for educating their teenage children about sex.

The United States-based Johns Hopkins University sent experts to the workshop part of a program targeting “married women of reproductive age”, according to Dinar Pandan Sari of the university’s Center for Communication Programs in Jakarta.

Indonesia, Queensride
As the number of female drivers increases, Indonesia’s ministry of transportation has stepped up efforts to reduce crashes involving women Pixabay

“The fact that in just two years, Queenrides has been able to grow from an idea to 200,000 women joining their movement is remarkable,” Sari added.

Queenrides teams up with other organizations to provide information on issues like women’s rights, while members can also receive financial planning advice from institutions including Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri.

As Queensrides’ membership grows, revenue from advertising on the website should increase as well, allowing the startup to expand its programs, according to Jachja.

Also Read: 3 HIV=+ Students Banned From School In Indonesia

She said she aims to attract 5 million members over the next three years, making Queensrides the biggest women’s empowerment platform in Southeast Asia.

“If you can conquer Indonesia, it is easy to conquer any other area in the world,” said Jachja about her homeland, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, and a multitude of languages and cultures. “Conquering Indonesia is like conquering five countries at the same time.” (VOA)