Banda Aceh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A law that legislates punishment of 100 lashes for gay sexual relations comes into force in Aceh today. According to the "moderate" form of sharia that exists in the semi-autonomous region, "any sexually stimulating bodily contact " between people of the same sex is now illegal. The law was passed in 2014 amid protests from human rights groups, but it took a year to implement.
Under the norm the beatings must be inflicted with wood rattan [a local palm ed], in public, and must be aimed more at humiliation than to cause pain. Corporal punishment can, however, be replaced by a payment in gold or a prison term.
Homosexual relations are not illegal in the other provinces of Indonesia, which follows a Civil Code inherited from its Dutch settlers. Syahrizal Abbas, Islamic leader of Aceh, says that "the law is aimed at the preservation of human dignity. It is to protect Muslims from committing immoral acts". The measure also makes adultery punishable with 100 lashes and those who are accused without evidence with 80 lashes.
Aceh province began introducing Islamic law (shari'a) in 2005, following a peace agreement between Jakarta and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in 2001. This form of public punishment is already the norm for gamblers, drinkers of alcohol and those who have relationships with women outside marriage.
Several human rights activists are calling for the abolition of the law. Ismail Hasani, a member of the group "Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace", defines the measure as "cruel, inhuman and against the constitution." The government should not interfere in private lives of its citizens but ensure individual rights, such as freedom ".