Love’s Limits in Aceh

It baffles me that homosexuality is considered a crime.  A relationship between two consenting, same-gendered adults is considered illegal.  Essentially, love is considered illegal.

I feel very lucky to live in a country that accepts my preferences and interests.  I feel blessed that I can be myself within the place I call home.  Granted, there will always be people who don’t believe in the ‘idea’ of homosexuality, but I know I won’t be punished for who I love and who I am.

Homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, with the exception of the province of Aceh.  With a population of a little over 5 million, this peaceful Indonesia province is known for its large mountains, beautiful beaches, and anti-gay task force.

West Java police chief Anton Charliyan organized the anti- gay task force to reduce the LGBTQ population.  Since establishing the task force, two young, homosexual men have been publicly flogged and a local gay club was raided.

The flogging was similar to what you would expect to see in 18th century Europe.  All of the towns people were there, cheering and watching as the two boys were beaten 82 times each.  Some of the audience members even video taped the public punishment.

The court has since found the two men guilty of breaking the local law.  Police chief, Charliyan, believes that those who disobey this law will suffer the same punishment or worse.

“I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition.  If there’s anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society,” Charliyan said.

According to an article by Colin Stewart, “A total of 72 countries have criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex  (LGBTQ) people.”

Aceh police also raided a local gay club and detained 141 men there.  While detained, the police released photos of some of the men in states of undress to the media, revealing not only their bodies, but their identities as well.  Out of the 141 men- only 10 have been declared as suspects, five remain under investigation, and 126 were released.

Since the violent flogging and public shame, many human rights groups are starting to take action against the Aceh ruling.  The Human Rights Watch have consistently covered the Aceh ruling and violence against gay poeple.  In April 2016, four United Nations special rapporteurs expressed their concerns to the indonesian goverment in regards to the abuse against LGBT people.  The government has yet to respond.

According to Yuli Rustinawati, chairperson of Arus Pelangi (an Indonesian LGBT activist organization), the police have an agenda to publicly shame and dishonor gay people.

“The police also release data – names and addresses,” said Rustinawati. “It’s humiliating and it puts LGBT people in danger.”

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