Sharia In Aceh Province
Offenders of crimes such as gambling and adultery have been subjected to severe public canings recently in the province of Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh province, located on the northern part of Sumatra, Indonesia, has long been a conservative Muslim area, and is thought to be the place where Islam was first established in South East Asia.
In 2001, Sharia-inspired bye laws were put into effect in Aceh and a form of Sharia was formally introduced in 2003. Sharia law in Aceh covers criminal law, economic law, and morality, but it is the third group that is implemented the most and that often affects the daily activities of its ordinary citizens.
The effect has been mainly on dress, gambling, alcohol consumption, and assumed adultery or interaction between the sexes. The penalties imposed under Sharia law in Aceh have long been condemned by human rights organizations worldwide. These punishments included canings, amputation of limbs, blinding, stoning for adultery and decapitation.
Corporal punishment is meted out on a regular basis for crimes deemed in violation of Sharia Law. The beatings were often carried out in the presence of the public as well as the district and legislative council members. The severe beatings came to the world’s attention recently with the brutal caning of 10 citizens, both men and women, in Meulaboh, West Aceh. The head of the West Aceh Public Order Agency and Sharia Police, Jhon Aswir, defended the punishments, sayind that these people have been convicted of offences such as gambling and adultery.
Three of the victims who were caned collapsed and fainted, including a woman. Photos of the wounds of one caning victim circulated show the excessful force used. The punishment is imposed on both men and women and leads to severe, permanent scarring.
Human rights organizations have soundly criticized the Government of Indonesia for failing once again to prosecute the parties responsible for these terrible violations of human decency and accepted worldwide standards of criminal law. In addition, it also came to international attention recently that an innocent 16-year-old girl committed suicide after she was arrested wrongly by the Sharia Police and accused of prostitution. She had attended a musical concert when she was arrested.
Indonesia is not an Islamic state, although it is home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. More than 200 million citizens of the Asian nation embrace Islam. Indonesia follows “Pancasila” (meaning five principles in Sanskrit), and recognises five ‘state’ or official religions. Freedom of worship is guaranteed. However, in Aceh province, Sharia law is enforced in stages pursuant to an agreement between the central government in Jakarta and Aceh independence fighters. The legal changes in Aceh were permitted as a means of placating separatist tendencies, and introduced without strong discussion, thus resulting in many loopholes and deficiencies.
Think about it
Does Sharia law take into account human rights and dignities? Are there other ways to promote moral behaviour besides torturing captured victims with brutal beatings and public humiliation? Do those who are wrongly accused of crimes have any recourse at all?