Indonesia: Two women arrested after hugging in public


Two women have been arrested by Sharia police in Aceh, Indonesia on suspicion of being lesbians after hugging in public.

On 28 September the Wilayatul Hisbah, or Sharia police, arrested two women identified as AS, 18, and N, 19, after they saw them hugging in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, according to Human Rights Watch.

A senior police official has said "we suspected that they were lesbians."

The Indonesian government allowed Aceh "Special Status" in 1999 and is the only Indonesian province of the 34 that can legally adopt by-laws derived from Sharia.

Although homosexuality is not illegal in the Indonesian national criminal code, Aceh's criminal code prohibits lesbianism and sodomy.

The Acehnese by-laws extend Sharia to non-Muslims and the criminal code allows punishments of 100 lashes and 100 months in prison for consensual same-sex acts.

The area is predominantly Muslim, but the by-laws also extend to the 90,000 non-Muslim residents, most of whom are Christian and Buddhist, as well as domestic and foreign visitors to the province.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Indonesia ratified in 2005, protects the rights to privacy and family, freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, religion and other status such as sexual orientation. It also prohibits punishments such as whipping that could amount to torture.

The Free Aceh Movement is bound by the ICCPR and has also agreed to adhere to the ICCPR in drafting the region's laws.

The head of the Wilayatul Hisbah told Indonesian media that he still believed that homosexuality is forbidden in Aceh, whether or not it is prohibited by local law.

A 2014 United Nations report said during the previous five years, "the situation for LGBT residents of Aceh and other marginalised communities has deteriorated."

Aceh's provincial legilsatlure should urgently repeal the discriminatory by-laws, Human Rights Watch said.

"Discriminatory laws and homophobic public rhetoric by officials create a climate of fear that stalks LGBT people in Aceh," Reid said. "There is no place in Indonesia for such laws and government behavior."