Indonesia: Unmarried couples caned for public affection in 'an act of utmost cruelty'

A woman caned in Banda Aceh in 2017. © ULET IFANSASTI

Responding to the news that several people were caned – including unmarried couples, punished for showing affection in public, and two women sex workers – in Aceh today, Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said:

“Caning is an inhuman and degrading form of punishment that may amount to torture which should never be used in any circumstances. The Aceh authorities’ decision to cane unmarried couples, whose only ‘crime’ was showing affection in public, in front of hundreds of spectators, is an act of utmost cruelty.

“Since January of this year, a total of 47 people have now been caned in public in Aceh, and the list is only getting longer. The provincial administration of Aceh must immediately remove this abhorrent form of punishment from its law books.

“It is also high time for the international community to press Indonesia to provide a safer environment for everyone in Aceh. The situation risks deteriorating rapidly unless the local administration is pushed to take its obligations to respect human rights seriously.”

Eight people, including five women and three men, were caned between 11 and 22 times on Friday in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, for “showing affection in public” and for “prostitution”.

Amnesty Indonesia has documented how a total of 47 people have been caned for various “crimes” in the province of Aceh, where Shari’a law is implemented, this year.

The Banda Aceh city administration decided to carry out the caning in public, despite a recent decision taken by the Aceh Governor to move the caning punishments indoors, away from the public eye. The Governor told media that the decision to move the punishment indoors was to prevent investors being dissuaded from bringing their business to Aceh.

Canings are regularly carried out in public spaces, drawing large crowds where people take photographs and videos of the event.

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