BANDA ACEH – Eighteen people were publicly caned Tuesday for breaking Islamic law in Indonesia’s Aceh province, including a young unmarried couple who were caught spending time alone together.
A hooded man meted out lashings with a rattan cane on a stage next to the mosque in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province, in front of a large, cheering crowd.
A 19-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man were caned eight times each after they were found spending time alone together, which is against the law for unmarried Muslim couples in the province.
Public caning happens on a regular basis in Aceh, the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country to implement Islamic Shariah law but is less common for women.
Six young men were also caned 40 times each after they were caught drinking alcohol, which violates Islamic law, at a birthday party in a hotel room in December.
Authorities did not disclose the offenses committed by the rest of the group, who were all men.
Aceh began implementing Shariah law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an effort by the central government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.
Islamic laws have been strengthened since the province struck a peace deal with the central government in 2005.
More than 90 percent of Indonesians describe themselves as Muslim, but the vast majority practice a moderate form of the faith.