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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

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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Indonesia Plans to Close Giant Lizard Island to The Public to Conserve Rare Reptiles

Syahputra works as a wildlife guide at Komodo National Park on the eastern Indonesian island of Komodo, taking visitors around the park

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Indonesia, Giant Lizard, Island
FILE - A Komodo dragon walks at the Komodo National Park in Komodo island, Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province. VOA

Almost every day 20-year-old Rizaldian Syahputra puts on his blue uniform, laces up his high boots and leaves his wooden house on stilts for a job many nature-lovers would envy. Giant Lizard

But by next year, he may no longer be employed.

Syahputra works as a wildlife guide at Komodo National Park on the eastern Indonesian island of Komodo, taking visitors around the park on foot to get up close to the leathery Komodo dragons, the world’s largest living lizard species.

The Indonesian government plans to close the island to the public from January next year in a bid to conserve the rare reptiles.

Indonesia, Giant Lizard, Island
Almost every day 20-year-old Rizaldian Syahputra puts on his blue uniform, laces up his high boots and leaves his wooden house on stilts. Pixabay

The scheme also involves moving about 2,000 villagers off the island. Authorities are holding talks with community leaders on how to relocate the residents, Josef Nae Soi, deputy governor of the province of East Nusa Tenggara, told Reuters recently.

It is hoped that closing the island to tourists will cut the risk of poaching and allow a recovery in the numbers of the animals’ preferred prey, such as deer, buffalo and wild boar.

The island could reopen after a year, but the plan is to make it a premium tourist destination, Soi said.

Syahputra, who says he enjoys his job because of his passion for nature and conservation, shares the fears of many others on the island who rely on tourism for a living.

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“The closure is definitely something that makes us unhappy,” he said.

“If we really have to do it, I hope we can find a middle ground on the solution, not closing the whole island but just a certain area.”

More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park, a conservation area between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, in 2018. The whole area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

About 1,700 Komodo dragons are estimated to live on Komodo island. Other islands in the national park that are home to more than 1,400 of the giant lizards, such as nearby Rinca and Padar, will remain open to tourists.

 

Indonesia, Giant Lizard, Island
The scheme also involves moving about 2,000 villagers off the island. LifetimeStock

Villagers who have lived on Komodo island for generations are unsurprisingly opposed to the idea of having to leave.

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“We have been living as one for years with this village,” said resident Dahlia, who gave only one name. “The graves of my father and ancestors are here. If we move, who will take care of those graves?” (VOA)