By Ovasa Ogaga -With Agency Report
Two Indonesians will soon stand trial in an Islamic court for having gay sex and could receive 100 strokes of the cane each on conviction, officials in the conservative province of Aceh have said.
However, their arrest and trial has sparked calls from a rights group for their release.
It would be recalled that Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia that criminalises same-sex relations and also uses Sharia as its legal code in addition to the national criminal code.
“The case has been sent to the Sharia court of Aceh; It involves sodomy which can be punished by 100 lashes,” Tarmizi, head of investigations with Aceh’s religious police, said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Indonesia authority to release the men who were detained in March after vigilantes reported them to religious police for allegedly engaging in gay sex.
“These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.
“Indonesian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the two men,’’ HRW’s Phelim Kine said in a statement.
In 2014, Aceh enacted a law that punishes anybody caught engaging in consensual gay sex with 100 lashes, 100 months in jail or a fine of 1,000 gm of gold.
It also sets out punishment for sex crimes, unmarried people engaging in displays of affection, adulterous relationships and underage sex.
According to HRW, authorities in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra Island caned 339 people in 2016 for a range of crimes.
Religious police in Aceh have also been known to target Muslim women without head scarves or those wearing tight clothes, and people drinking alcohol or gambling.
According to media reports, two women were detained in October 2016 on suspicion of being lesbians after they were seen hugging in public, and were made to undergo “rehabilitation.’’
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has faced growing pressure since high-ranking government officials 2016 expressed reservations about activism by its members.