Two Indonesian men flogged in Aceh province for having gay sex

A man accused of having gay sex being caned in Banda Aceh on Jan 28, 2021.
A man accused of having gay sex being caned in Banda Aceh on Jan 28, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

BANDA ACEH (AFP) - A gay couple were flogged in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province Thursday (Jan 28), justice officials said, in a public spectacle lambasted by human rights groups.

The two men were whipped nearly 80 times each for having gay sex, which is outlawed in Aceh province under local Islamic law.

The pair, who were not identified, winced in pain and pleaded for the whipping to stop, as a masked officer beat their backs with a rattan stick.

The punishment was briefly halted and the men, both in their twenties, were allowed a drink of water before it continued.

The mother of one man fainted at the sight of her son being whipped.

"Islamic syariah enforcement is final, no matter who it is, and even visitors must respect local norms," public order official Heru Triwijanarko told AFP.

The men were arrested in November at a rental home where a landlord found them half-naked in their room.

Gay sex is not illegal elsewhere in Indonesia and Aceh is the only region in the world's biggest Muslim nation that imposes syariah law.

In Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, public flogging is a common punishment for a range of offences that include gambling, drinking alcohol and adultery.

Four others were whipped between 17 and 40 times on the same day over allegations they drank alcohol or met with members of the opposite sex.

Human rights groups slam public caning as cruel, and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has called for it to end.

But it has strong support among Aceh's population.

The region started using religious law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.