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Indonesian men to face caning for gay sex

BBC News logo BBC News 23/05/2017

Two men are to be caned on Tuesday in the Indonesian province of Aceh after being caught having sex.

Gay sex is not illegal in most of Indonesia but is in Aceh, the only province which exercises Islamic law.

The men will each receive 85 strokes during the punishment, which will take place in public.

The pair, aged 20 and 23, were found in bed together by vigilantes who entered their private accommodation in March. They have not been identified.

'He was terrified' - Rebecca Henschke, BBC News, Banda Aceh

I met one of the young men in jail a day before the caning. He was terrified and his whole body was shaking. He was thin, pale and had a red rash on his skin.

Inmates surrounded us with intimidating glares as we tried to talk. I thought we were going to be speaking in a private room, but he was not granted that.

Before neighbourhood vigilantes broke down the door to his rented room, he was in his final years of a medical degree - his plan was to be a doctor. Now we are told the university has kicked him out.

Mosque in Banda Aceh: The caning will take place outside a mosque in the Aceh capital, Banda Aceh © BBC The caning will take place outside a mosque in the Aceh capital, Banda Aceh

Videos of the raid that caught him and his partner having sex have been widely shared online. In the mobile phone footage they are both naked, pleading for help.

"I just want the caning to be over and to go back to my family, I have been deeply depressed. I am trying to pull myself out of a deep black hole," he said.

Aceh was granted special rights to introduce its own stricter Islamic laws more than a decade ago, and has become increasingly conservative in recent years.

Strict laws against homosexuality were passed in 2014 and came into effect the following year.

Public caning sentences have been handed down previously only for gambling and drinking alcohol.

Indonesia has historically largely been tolerant of homosexuality, but has witnessed increasing official and social hostility towards its small and low-profile LGBTQ community in recent years.

Earlier this month, Indonesian police arrested 14 people in the city of Surabaya for allegedly holding a gay party. They could face charges under ambiguous anti-pornography laws.

Two Indonesian man are taken from their prison cell (17 May 2017): The men were found in bed together by vigilantes in a part of Indonesia which bans homosexuality © Reuters The men were found in bed together by vigilantes in a part of Indonesia which bans homosexuality Map © BBC Map

On Monday, 141 men were arrested in a police swoop on a sauna in the capital, Jakarta, on similar charges.

Rights groups have strongly criticised prosecutions of people involved in same-sex relationships, and the use of caning.

Amnesty International said every human was entitled to a right to privacy and to have consensual relations, but that the two men had been ambushed in their home.

It said caning was a "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" and may amount to torture and called on the Acehnese authorities to abandon the practice.

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