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Gay in Aceh, Indonesia? Brace for 100 Lashes in Front of a Jeering Crowd

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BY PATRICK WINN / GlobalPost

The Indonesian province is also now authorized to punish homosexuality with 100 months in jail or 1,000 grams of gold.

BANGKOK, Thailand — One of Southeast Asia’s strictest Islamic enclaves just got a lot more hostile to same-sex couples.

In Aceh, the most orthodox corner of Muslim-majority Indonesia, gay sex is now punishable by 100 lashes. On a public stage. By a cane-wielding figure clad head-to-ankles in dark brown robes (with a yellow decorative fringe).

CaningThe sting of a rattan cane is only part of the punishment. Aceh’s officials admit the primary objective is shame. That’s why they invite crowds to jeer and gawk and excitedly count off the lashings meted out to men and women accused of petty crimes.

Sound archaic?

That’s the point.

The lashings are administered under Sharia law, a moral code dictated in the Quran that dates back the seventh century. Aceh’s modern-day whipping sessions are meant to play out as they did in ancient times — only with teenagers recording the beatings on their iPhones.

In the 12th century, Aceh was among the first places of Asia to absorb Islam from seafaring Arabs. Today, the far-flung province remains proudly orthodox. It’s the only territory in Indonesia that enforces Sharia law, which forbids alcohol, premarital romance and women in tight jeans.

Under a newly revised interpretation of Sharia law in Aceh, gay sex is now explicitly criminalized and punishable by 100 lashes or 100 months in jail. Officials can also demand 1,000 grams of pure gold (roughly $39,000) if they catch same-sex couples in the act. Male-on-male anal sex and women “rubbing body parts for stimulation” are explicitly outlawed.

In recent years, Aceh’s officials have ramped up their anti-gay rhetoric. A popular deputy mayor has proclaimed homosexuality a “social disease.” A former Sharia police chief noted that, technically, lesbians can be beheaded and tossed in the sea.

The fact that officials restrain from Sharia’s harshest punishments — like stoning — is cited as proof that Aceh’s take on Islamic punishment is actually lenient.

Public lashings in Aceh typically don’t leave lawbreakers crippled and gushing blood. As Aceh’s former Sharia police chief Khalidin previously explained to GlobalPost: “It’s not about pain. It’s about humiliation.”

Still, some who are sentenced to lashings refuse to surrender their pride. Instead, they puff out their chests defiantly as they’re being lashed — all to prove they’ve got the guts to take a beating.

One hulking man whipped for gambling in September stepped on stage, potbelly exposed, and tried to yank away the cane while being lashed. The crowd roared with approval.

Other caning sentences are far more degrading.

Earlier this year, eight male vigilantes stormed into a 25-year-old woman’s home and caught her with a married man. Then they gang raped her and doused her body in sewage. Though the men were charged with rape in criminal court, according to the Jakarta Globe, authorities decided the rape victim was still guilty of infidelity and subject to a public whipping.

In Aceh, these appeals to hard-line Islamic purity are similar to US politicians extolling a return to “family values.” Rhetoric about old-fashioned religious morality appeal to the base. In recent years, Islamic authorities have openly complained that Aceh’s existing interpretation of Sharia only covers unmarried males and females in close proximity — leaving a loophole allowing for gay romance.

That loophole is now closed.

FreeacehmopvementMany among the current crop of leaders trace their roots to Free Aceh Movement, a separatist guerrilla faction that fought the Indonesian army for three decades.

In 2001, the Indonesian government granted Sharia law to Aceh in hopes of winning over Islamists who were otherwise sympathetic to the rebellion. After the guerrillas negotiated for peace in 2005, they transformed into politicians and retained the popular Islamic laws.

Indonesia’s human rights advocates are deeply horrified at the harsh codes against homosexuality. It’s “as if we’re going back hundreds of years,” according to Chika Noya, an Indonesian gay rights activist interviewed by the Jakarta Globe. Another activist insisted the punishment belongs in the Middle Ages.

“Gays and lesbians are human beings also,” said a female Indonesian lecturer from Aceh in an interview with GlobalPost. “Who are we to go against God’s creations?”

But she conceded that “those who are against it are the minority.” Hardliners have become so emboldened in Aceh, she said, that publishing her name, employer and pro-gay stance could bring on serious repercussions.

“It is hard for people like me in this community to say openly that we’re against it,” the lecturer said. “Because people will say we’re against what the holy book and God says ... and that means, in their interpretation, they can kill us.”

(bottom image: Kementerian Pertahanan Republik Indonesia (Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia - wikimedia commons)


Indonesian Sharia Province May Punish Gay Sex With 100 Lashes

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Politicians in Aceh province, Indonesia, are considering passing a new law that will punish gay sex with 100 lashes, reports Malaysian Digest.

Aceh is the only part Indonesia to enforce Islamic Sharia law, which is has been slowly implementing since 2001.

The draft law, which also punishes adultery with 100 lashes of the cane, would criminalize anal sex between men and "the rubbing of body parts between women for stimulation.” It would also apply Islamic laws and punishments to non-Muslims.

Aceh Party's Ramli Sulaiman, who heads the commission that drafted the law, said:

"We have studied the implementation of sharia in countries like Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam and Jordan to draft this law and we are happy with it.”

Amnesty International has expressed concern over the bylaw and has said that caning goes against international laws on torture and rights, as well as Indonesia's own constitution.


The Gay Rights Push (And Push Back) In Southeast Asia: VIDEO

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For one day in June, the tiny city-state of Singapore brims with bright pink clothing, banners, and festivities to mark the annual "Pink Dot" gathering, a celebration in support of inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love. This year's celebration, the fifth such event, was the biggest so far; at 21,000 people it was the largest civil-society gathering in Singapore history.     

But for all Pink Dot's success, the Singapore government's official ambivalence regarding gay rights reflects a common hesitation among Southeast Asian countries when faced with this new notion of human sexuality. Like our own 50 state variety of attitudes towards LGBT rights, some Southeast Asian countries are beginning to take their first hesitant steps towards equality, while others seem to be reinforcing their disapproval of homosexuality.

Continue, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Gay Rights Push (And Push Back) In Southeast Asia: VIDEO" »


Indonesia: No Porn During Holy Month

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Happy Ramadan to you! Sadly, it will be a sweaty and restless Ramadan in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, for Indonesian Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring shall attempt to eliminate the viewing of online porn during the holy month:

“As this is the Ramadhan fasting month, we need to strengthen our efforts,” ... Sembiring told reporters at a press conference at the ministry on Wednesday. 

Tifatul, known for his antics such as claiming he was “forced” to shake the hand of US First Lady Michelle Obama during a visit to Jakarta, said that the crackdown would focus on local Internet service providers (ISP).

The viewing of porn is always illegal in Indonesia, thanks to the 2008 Pornography Law -- which outlawed both pornography and "pornoaction," which may include kissing one's spouse, wearing bikinis, or the baring of a lady's shoulder -- but, according to The Jakarta Post, porn is especially dangerous during Ramadan:

[According to Ashwin Sasongko, the "director for informatics applications" at the Communication and Information Ministry,] the crackdown was launched for the benefit of Muslims, who were expected to refrain from sexual intercourse during daylight hours during Ramadhan, among other things.

“We are responsible for protecting the younger generation from consuming destructive pornographic content on the internet,” Ashwin said.

“This is really important especially ahead of Ramadhan. We hope that Muslims can fast peacefully,” Ashwin added.

At least one million pornographic websites have been blocked in Indonesia so far. There are at least one million more to go, according to te Communication and Information Ministry, though their math may be untrustworthy -- the Ministry also claims to have received "at least" 100 million complaints about online pornography in the last year, which equals rather a lot of Indonesians Googling pages they don't want to see. (The year before, the Ministry reported just over 800 such complaints.)

The Global Post notes that some Indonesians have been unable to resist porn's evil allure, including at least one Indonesian in Tifatul Sembiring's own political party:

... Tifatul's views are significantly more conservative than the norm in Indonesia, where voters have time and again offered only scant support to his fundamentalist Prosperous Justice Party ... Last year, a parliamentarian with the party resigned after fellow lawmakers caught him watching porn on his mobile phone.

In parliament.

The Jakarta Post notes a Google report that Indonesia ranks third in the world in internet users seeking pornography, behind only China and, for some reason, Turkey. 


Gaga Forced To Cancel Indonesian Concert

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There shall be no Born This Way Ball in Indonesia.

After clerics in Jakarta spent several weeks fuming and fretting over the social implications of allowing Lady Gaga, lover of sodomites and revealer of body parts, to perform in the world's largest Muslim country, Gaga's security team was so inundated with threats and portents that they forcibly canceled the concert.

From CNN:

The pop diva appeared to acknowledge [the situation] in a post on Twitter on Saturday: "There is nothing Holy about hatred."

Islamists and conservative Muslims have decried Lady Gaga's upcoming concert, saying her revealing costumes and sensual dance moves are forbidden by Islamic law.

The chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front, Habib Rizieq, said his group could not guarantee security if the concert were held.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

In March, the pop star got a thumbs-down by the country's highest Islamic authority, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Indonesian Council of Ulema chairman Cholil Ridwan was urging Muslims not to attend the controversial singer's upcoming concert in Jakarta, the newspaper reported.

"(The concert is) intended to destroy the nation's morality," Ridwan told the Globe.

I think Ridwan is correct: Lady Gaga probably did direct the Born This Way Ball toward Indonesia, in part, because she dislikes what passes for sexual morality there. What's mystifying is why Indonesian clerics, despite their vast power, would feel threatened by a 26-year-old pop singer from the Lower East Side. They've allegedly got God on their side, and righteousness, and culture and history and whatnot. With so much going for them, why should they become unmanned by a few pop tunes and a bit of latex?


Obama's Transgender Former Nanny Living as Outcast in Jakarta

The AP profiles Evie, President Obama's transgender former nanny, who lives in a slum in Jakarta, Indonesia. Like most of the trans population there, Evie is treated as an outcast. Here's part of the post which deals with an earlier time in her life when she was a sex worker:

EvieThe raid that changed everything came in 1985. She and her friends scattered into dark alleys to escape the swinging batons. One particularly beautiful girl, Susi, jumped into a canal strewn with garbage.

When things quieted, those who ran went back to look for her.

"We searched all night," says Evie, who is still haunted by the memory of her friend's face. "Finally ... we found her. It was horrible. Her body swollen, face bashed in."

Evie tells the AP she's just waiting to die:

"I don't have a future anymore."

She says she didn't know the boy she helped raise won the 2008 U.S. presidential election until she saw a picture of the family in local newspapers and on TV. She blurted out that she knew him.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," she says, breaking into a huge grin.
Her friends at first laughed and thought she was crazy, but those who live in the family's old neighborhood say it's true.

Evie said Obama was 8 (she met their familiy in 1969 and began work after his mother was impressed with her cooking): "He was so young," says Evie. "And I never let him see me wearing women's clothes. But he did see me trying on his mother's lipstick, sometimes. That used to really crack him up."


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