Indonesian Men Sentenced To Caning For Having Gay Sex

Gay sex is not illegal elsewhere in Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population.

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Indonesian Men Sentenced To Caning For Having Gay Sex

Indonesian police take away two men, accused of having sex in contravention of sharia law.

Banda Aceh:  A sharia court Wednesday sentenced two Indonesian men to be publicly caned for gay sex for the first time in the conservative province of Aceh, the latest sign of a backlash against homosexuals in the Muslim-majority country.

The pair, aged 20 and 23, were sentenced to 85 strokes of the cane each after being found guilty of breaking sharia law in the only part of Indonesia that implements the strict Islamic regulations.

They were caught together in bed in March by vigilantes who burst into the boarding house where they were staying in provincial capital Banda Aceh.

Shaky phone footage of the raid that circulated online showed the vigilantes kicking, slapping and insulting the men, with one of them slumped naked on the ground during the attack.

Public caning has long been common for offences such as gambling and drinking in Aceh, but Wednesday's verdict was the first time the punishment has been handed down for gay sex since a sharia regulation came into force in 2015 banning the practice.

"This is barbaric -- this is another low point for Aceh, and also for Indonesia," said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Gay sex is not illegal elsewhere in Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population.

The ruling is another sign of growing hostility towards Indonesia's small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which has faced a wave of angry rhetoric in recent times, with ministers, hardliners and influential Islamic groups lining up to denounce homosexuality.

'Reduce my sentence'

Handing down the verdict at the Banda Aceh court, presiding judge Khairil Jamal said that the men had been "proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing gay sex, the defendants are sentenced to 85 strokes of the cane in public".

The sentence was higher than the recommendation by prosecutors of 80 strokes of the cane. Officials have not revealed the men's names due to the sensitivity of the case.

The men arrived at court handcuffed to one another, covering their faces with their clothes to hide their identities from journalists. During the hearing, they bowed their heads and covered their faces with their hands.

Asked by the judge if he accepted the verdict, one of the men said softly: "Please reduce my sentence". The second nodded gently and did not say anything.

Afer being caught, the men were handed over to sharia authorities who said they admitted to being in a relationship and having had sex three times.

The sentence will be carried out at a later date. Canings in Aceh are typically conducted using a thin, rattan cane in front of huge crowds outside mosques.

The backlash against the homosexual community began in early 2016, and activists believe it was triggered by widespread media coverage of a decision in the United States to legalise same-sex marriage.

A growing number of cases of gay people being harassed and running into problems have been reported. Earlier this month, police arrested eight men in the city of Surabaya for allegedly holding a "gay party".

Aceh has faced mounting criticism for its canings, with images of women collapsing as they are publicly flogged drawing criticism from rights groups.

The province, on western Sumatra island, began implementing sharia law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.  Islamic laws have been strengthened since the province struck a peace deal with Jakarta in 2005

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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