2 men in Indonesia's Aceh province face caning for gay sex

In this Monday, March 20, 2017 photo, a Sharia law official whips a man convicted of adultery with a rattan cane in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Two men in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province each face up to 100 stroke of the cane after neighbors reported them to Islamic religious police for having gay sex. Marzuki, the Shariah police's chief investigator, said Saturday, April 8, that if found guilty, the men will be the first to be caned for gay sex under a new code implemented two years ago. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Two men in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province each face up to 100 strokes of the cane after neighbors reported them to Islamic religious police for having gay sex.

Marzuki, the Shariah police's chief investigator, said Saturday that if found guilty, the men will be the first to be caned for gay sex under a new code implemented two years ago.

Residents in a neighborhood of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, reported the men, aged 23 and 20, to police on March 29, said Marzuki, who goes by a single name.

He said the men had "confessed" to being a gay couple and that this was supported by video footage taken by a resident that has been circulating online. It shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practice Shariah law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a yearslong war with separatists.

A Shariah code implemented two years ago allows up to 100 lashes for morality offenses including gay sex. Caning is also a punishment for adultery, gambling, drinking alcohol, women who wear tight clothes and men who skip Friday prayers.

Marzuki said residents in Banda Aceh's Rukoh neighborhood were suspicious of the two men because they often seemed to be intimate, and had set out to catch them having sex.

"Based on our investigation, testimony of witnesses and evidence, we can prove that they violated Islamic Shariah law and we can take them to court," Marzuki said.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but a judicial review being considered by the Constitutional Court is seeking to criminalize sex outside marriage and sex between people of the same gender.

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