BANDA ACEH, 19 September – A trio of couples in a canoe was publicly lashed today in the Indonesian province of Aceh, accused of breaking local Islamic law banning public displays of affection.
Despite international condemnation, the whiplash is a common punishment for a series of crimes in the deeply conservative region of the island of Sumatra, including gambling, alcohol consumption and gay or premarital sex.
Aceh is the only region of the largest Muslim-majority country in the world that imposes Islamic law.
Today, a masked sharia officer rained between 20 and 22 shots from a rattan cane on three men and three women caught behaving lovingly.
Everyone had served several months in prison.
A woman jumped and fell for the painful punishment, which was executed in front of a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.
Dozens of onlookers, including visiting Malaysian students, attended the show.
"I'm nervous because it's the first time I've seen something like this," said visitor Muhammad Rushdy.
"But it can be an important lesson for us in other countries to comply with local regulations," he added.
The mayor of Banda Aceh, Aminullah Usman, repeated his long-standing claim that punishment is a deterrent.
"But we continue to tell visitors not to be afraid to visit Banda Aceh … because you will not be frustrated if you do not break the law," he said.
Rights groups have ruled public flogging cruel and Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for it to end, but the practice has broad support from the population of Aceh.
About 98% of the five million residents in the region are Muslims. – AFP