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Friday, May 9, 2014

Will Sharia Religious Police Cane an Indonesian Woman Gang-Raped By Eight Vigilantes?

     Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Sharia law is widely and strictly enforced in Aceh Province in the northern tip of Sumatra, one of the country's highest concentration of Muslims. Under Sharia law, Muslim women are subjected to a dress code that requires them to cover their hair and forbids them from wearing tight pants. Females are also not allowed to dance in public. Premarital sex as well as extramarital sexual relations are serious violations of Sharia law.

     On May 1, 2014, in the city of Lhokbani in Aceh Province, eight male vigilantes broke into the home of a 25-year-old widow. Once inside the dwelling, the men found the young woman having sex with a 40-year-old married man.

     The mob, which included a 13-year-old boy, gang-raped the woman and severely beat her sexual partner. The vigilantes also doused the couple with raw sewerage, then hauled them to the Sharia police. Under Sharia law, the punishment for a woman who commits extramarital sex involves receiving nine strokes with a cane, a sentence carried out in public.

     While a reasonable person would expect that under these circumstances this woman would be spared the rod and public humiliation, Lbrahim Latief, head of Islamic Sharia in the district, said this to reporters a week after the gang-rape: "We want the couple caned because they violated the religious bylaw on sexual relations."

     The public caning of the raped woman and her sexual partner has been endorsed by Teungku Faisai, the head of Nahdiatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Islamic organization. According to Faisai, the secular police have arrested three of the eight rapists. Police officers are hunting down the others. Under Indonesia's secular criminal code, these rapists could be sentenced up to fifteen years in prison. (I would  imagine that prison life in Indonesia, compared to incarceration in the U.S., is brutal. Regular viewers of the television series "Locked Up Abroad" have some idea of the horrors of third world prison life.)

     Teungku Faisai, in speaking to the news media, said, "The punishment for the mob that raped the victim must be harsher than the woman's because they have set back efforts to uphold Sharia law in Aceh." Really? What about the fact these men committed gang rape, and the woman they assaulted in her own home didn't hurt anyone? What kind of society punishes victims? 

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