Fourteen civil society groups on Thursday condemned Aceh’s stoning bylaw, the Qanun Jinayat code, saying that most Acehnese were not in favor of it but that critics were being silenced by heavy-handed religious police.
The volunteer civic and social organizations and institutions, united under a coalition known as the National Network of Local Policy Observers, told a news conference in Jakarta that the central government should annul the bylaw — as well as 157 discriminatory bylaws like it throughout Indonesia — because they threatened human rights and degraded people.
The old Aceh Legislative Council (DPRA) endorsed the code, a set of local bylaws that have replaced parts of the Criminal Code with Shariah law for Muslims, on Sept. 14.
It imposes harsh sentences, such as stoning to death for adulterers and 100 lashes for people caught engaging in premarital sex or committing homosexual acts. It also stipulates a maximum of 40 lashes or 40 months in jail for drinking alcoholic beverages and 60 lashes and a fine of 60 grams of pure gold or 60 months in jail for sexual harassment.
Mike Verawati, of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition, said outsiders may think that all Acehnese welcomed the code.
“In fact, many Muslim people in Aceh disagree with the Qanun,” she said, adding that the bylaw and another imposed in West Aceh district, which prohibited women from wearing tight pants, would have “an extreme impact.”
Hartoyo, an activist from gay rights group Our Voice, said thorough research was needed to determine whether or not Acehnese were in favor of the bylaw.
“I doubt whether the majority of Aceh people want the bylaw implemented,” he said, adding that many people were afraid to speak out.
“There are a lot of people who oppose the bylaw but who cannot express their thoughts because they would be stigmatized as unbelievers, anti-Islam, and moreover, they might be expelled from Aceh.”
Sri Endas Iswarini, from the women’s organization Kapal Perempuan, said there were groups in Aceh that had been prevented from speaking out.
“Once they come out against the bylaw, the local Shariah police will escort them out of Aceh,” she said.
Umi Farida, of the Women’s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik), said that the bylaw had created an “invisible conflict.”
“It’s time to prevent its enactment,” she said. “The actual conflict is there, but people are being prevented from expressing their opinions.”
LBH Apik has previously, and unsuccessfully, challenged the validity of three bylaws it views as discriminatory — including local ordinances adopted in Tangerang, where women out alone at night must prove they aren’t prostitutes — in the Supreme Court.
Zudan Arif Fakrulloh, a Home Affairs Ministry official in charge of drafting laws, told the groups that the ministry could not annul the bylaw.
“First, it is not officially a bylaw because the local government has not agreed to it,” he said. “But in any case, we could not annul it because that is the right of the president, not the minister.”
Zudan said ministry had annulled more than a thousand tax-related bylaws. “But non-retribution bylaws come under the authority of the president.”
He did say, however, that if the local government did formally pass the bylaw, the ministry would review it and submit its report to the president.
“The bylaw should be based on four things: Indonesian unity, the state ideology, Pancasila, the Constitution and the diversity of the Indonesian people,” he said.
“Local [legal] products should be in harmony with the national legal system,” Zudan added. “The Qanun Jinayat is a repressive bylaw.”