Three pairs of "canoeists" have been cruelly mounted in a humiliating public punishment in Indonesia for violating local sharia law.
After the backs of the six men and women were whipped more than 20 times each, some collapsed, bleeding, crying from severe pain and had to be taken off stage.
The couples were punished in Banda Aceh for showing affection in public and their whipping – using a rattan cane – came after they had already been imprisoned for several months, according to Gulf News.
They were beaten by a masked officer for behaving "lovingly".
Merdeka reports that the "violators of Islamic sharia" were mounted in the park of Bustanus Salatin "in the center of the city", near the town hall.
RELATED: Ban on sex in Bali
The publication states that not many residents participated in the punishment, but students from Malaysia, who were studying at the Islamic University of Ar-Raniry, witnessed the beating.
With a jolt of pain, some collapsed after boxing, while a man was so badly injured that the paramedics tried to stretch him off the stage, but he refused and was instead taken down by the police.
The mayor of Banda Aceh, Animulla Usman, said that the goal of whipping couples in public was "to make them repent".
He said that performing the whip in the middle of a park, on a stage, was not to encourage people "to laugh at the authors but to serve as lessons for all of us".
Usman claimed that none of the couples was resident in the area but had violated the strict laws of the sharia in the city of Banda Aceh.
The Indonesian province systematically proceeds to harass gamblers, adulterers and homosexuals.
Usman told the children that they were forbidden to observe the punishment, as this could affect their "psychological development".
Amnesty International states that caning is "a form of inhuman and degrading punishment that can amount to torture that should never be used under any circumstances".
"The decision of the Aceh authorities to expel unmarried couples and prostitutes in front of hundreds of spectators is an act of utmost cruelty," said Amnesty International executive director Usman Hamid of Indonesia.
The charity said that between January and April last year 47 people were flogged in public, "and the list is only getting longer".
"The provincial administration of Aceh must immediately remove this form of hateful punishment from its law books," said Hamid.
"The time has also come for the international community to press Indonesia to provide a safer environment for everyone in Aceh.
"The situation is likely to deteriorate rapidly unless the local administration is pushed to take seriously its obligations to respect human rights."
Times states that around 90% of the 250 million Indonesians are Muslims, making it the largest Islamic population in the world.
But it has long taken an inclusive and tolerant line.
In the last two decades, more conservative rules have been established and, in the ultra-conservative Aceh, sharia is imposed by a dedicated police and crimes are punishable by public floggings and prison sentences.
At the beginning of this year, two teenage sweethearts were brutally boxed in front of a crowd lurking just because cuddles were caught.
WHAT IS SHARIA'S RIGHT?
Sharia law is a set of religious principles that aim to help Muslims understand how to conduct their daily lives as part of the Islamic tradition.
Serving as the religious juridical system of Islam, it derived both from the Koran – the central religious text of Islam – and from the fatwas, sentences issued by Islamic scholars who were familiar with Islamic sacred texts.
The Arabic word sharia originally meant "way" or "path" and refers to the revealed law of God. It informs every aspect of the daily life of a Muslim.
There are two main branches of sharia: ibadat, which means rituals or acts of adoration, and mu & amalat, which means human interactions and social relations.
These are divided into smaller branches that include things like finance, marriage, diet, prayers, fasting and pilgrimage.
This article originally appeared on The sun and has been reproduced with permission