Couple publicly flogged 100 times in Aceh – after virus precautions taken

A man reacts as he receives 100 whippings by religious police as punishment for pre-marital sex in Jantho, Aceh. (AFP pic)

ACEH BESAR: Two Indonesians caught having pre-marital sex were flogged a hundred times each on Friday in conservative Aceh province with a fraction of the usual crowd watching, due in part to coronavirus fears.

Aceh is the only region in Muslim-majority Indonesia to impose Islamic law, which allows whipping for charges including gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and gay sex.

Local officials have continued the practice despite bans on mass gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, insisting they have taken adequate safety measures to prevent infections.

On Friday, the couple had their temperatures checked and wore face masks as they were lashed with a rattan cane outside a mosque on the western tip of Sumatra.

The man’s flogging was briefly paused because he couldn’t bear the pain, while a second flogger had to be pressed into service to finish the heavy lashing of his female partner.

“This young couple deserved a hundred lashes because they violated Islamic law,” said Agus Kelana Putra, head of general crime division at the prosecutor’s office in Aceh Besar district.

Another man caught in a hotel room with a woman was also whipped 40 times but his underaged female partner was spared.

Dozens watched Friday’s flogging, a spectacle criticised by rights groups but which regularly attracted hundreds before the pandemic.

“Not so many people came because today because they’ve seen it many times before – or they’re afraid of Covid-19,” local resident Faisal said.