By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator
Yes – you read this blog title correctly. Maybe you shook your head, gasped, blinked your eyes and re-read it. The answer to your sputtered question is: Shari’a laws in Aceh, Indonesia.
On May 1, a group of eight men stormed into the woman’s house in Langsa district, accused her of having an affair with a married man, gang-raped her and beat her male companion. Now, she may face being caned a maximum of nine times for the crime of adultery.
After the rape and beating, the couple was handed over to the district’s Shari’a office by the local village head. The province police arrested three of the eight men on May 4, and are still looking for the others.
Aceh’s provincial legislature passed a series of bylaws governing the implementation of Shari’a law after the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001. Caning was introduced as a punishment carried out by Shari’a courts for a range of offences including adultery, consumption of alcohol, being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a marriage partner or relative (khalwat) and for any Muslim found eating, drinking or selling food during sunlight hours in the fasting month of Ramadan.
At least 139 people were caned in Aceh province between 2010 and 2013.
Aceh’s Shari’a laws targeting women have made news a number of times, including recently when women passengers were banned from straddling motorbikes. Amnesty International’s submission to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in July 2013 pointed to the Shari’a police, and sometimes members of the public, conducting raids to ensure that women comply with the local regulation dress codes. In 2012, local newspapers reported that 62 women in Bireuen district were detained for wearing “tight clothing.”
As a word of warning, with very little publicity the Aceh provincial administrative and legislative council have approved a bylaw that obliges all residents in Aceh to follow Shari’a, so think twice about those travel plans.
Now that you’ve stopped shaking, it’s time to take action. Tell Indonesian authorities that caning this woman would constitute torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.