September 29, 2014 / 2:03 PM / 3 years ago

Repeal law punishing gay sex with lashes in Indonesia's Aceh, says Amnesty

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BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Amnesty International called for an immediate repeal of a new law in the Indonesian province of Aceh punishing anyone caught having gay sex or extramarital sex with 100 lashes, saying the legislation would stoke homophobia and harassment.

The law punishes anybody caught engaging in consensual gay sex with 100 lashes, 100 months in jail or a fine of 1,000 grams of gold. It also sets out punishment for sex crimes, unmarried people engaging in displays of affection, adulterous relationships and underage sex.

"This law will only add to the climate of homophobia, fear and harassment many in Aceh are already facing,” Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director, said in a statement after the law was approved on Saturday.

"Laws that criminalize sex outside marriage... are used disproportionately to police and punish women's choices. They also act as a deterrent to women reporting rape and sexual violence who may fear being accused of sex outside marriage."

Authorities in Aceh could not immediately be reached for comment.

After a three-decade-old separatist movement, a 2005 peace agreement granted special autonomy to Aceh. As part of that deal, Aceh won the right to be the only Indonesian province to use Islamic Sharia law as its legal code.

Aceh's religious police have targeted Muslim women without head scarves or those wearing tight clothes, as well as people drinking alcohol or gambling.

Mahyar, an Aceh lawmaker, said the new law would be implemented slowly and that "every village must have a special person who promotes this law".

According to Amnesty, at least 156 people have been caned in Aceh since 2010 for gambling, selling food during the Ramadan, drinking alcohol, and cuddling or holding hands -- a crime called "khalwat".

Bennett called caning "a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that is clearly prohibited under international law".

Engaging in homosexual acts is not a crime under Indonesia's national criminal code but remains taboo in many conservative parts of the country with the world's largest Muslim population.

Reporting by Alisa Tang, Editing by Ros Russell.

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