Indonesia: New law in Aceh makes adultery punishable by stoning

The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! (SKSW) are gravely concerned to learn of a set of regressive new laws introduced in Aceh, Indonesia on 14 September 2009. Indonesia's province of Aceh has passed a new law that imposes severe sentences for consensual extra-marital sexual relations, rape, homosexuality, alcohol consumption and gambling. Previously, Aceh's partially-adopted Sharia law enforced dress codes and mandatory prayers. "This law is a preventive measure for Acehnese people so that they will avoid moral degradation," said Moharriyadia, a spokesman for the Prosperous Justice Party.

The legislation was passed unanimously by Aceh's regional legislature. "This law will be effective in 30 days with or without the approval of Aceh's governor," said assembly member Bahrom Rasjidhe. The governor of Aceh, a former rebel with the Free Aceh Movement, is opposed to strict Sharia law. He had urged more debate over the bill. A new parliament will be sworn in next month, after local polls saw the moderate Aceh Party win the most seats in the provincial assembly. The Aceh Party has said it will review the law once the new parliament is sitting. "It needs more public consultation. We need to involve the ulemas - the Islamic clerics - in drafting the law," said Adnan Beuransah, a spokesperson for the Aceh Party. About 90% of Indonesia's 235 million people are Muslim, practicing a moderate form of the religion.  


The latest news (17 September 2009) is that the national government of Indonesia may review this new law in Aceh. The immediate priority is to ensure that this review is undertaken. International support calling for this is very much needed. Please support this call by writing a letter to the President of Indonesia to call on him to stand firm on his commitment to women's rights and human rights. Please also send letters to other Indonesian authorities.

Below is a sample letter setting out the demands of women's rights and civil society groups in Indonesia:

Subject: URGENT review of new Qanun Jinayah (Islamic Criminal Legal Code) in Aceh

[Dear Sir/Madam/Your Excellency],

I am gravely concerned to learn that on Monday 14 September 2009, in the Indonesian province of Aceh, the Aceh Legislative Council (DPRD) passed a law that expands the range of violent punishments for alleged moral and sexual transgressions, including stoning to death for “adultery” and 100 lashes for homosexuality. This legislation has been passed despite protests from the Governor of Aceh and civil society.

There are thirty days from 14 September until this law comes into effect. I believe that these new laws are in violation of several Articles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, particularly:

• Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

• Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

• Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. These Articles were elaborated in major international human rights conventions – specifically, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, both of which Indonesia has signed and ratified and is therefore obligated to respect, protect and fulfil in its domestic laws and in practice.

No ‘religion’, ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’ should be used to excuse killing and maiming for alleged moral transgressions. We maintain that stoning to death is a grave and serious violation of international human rights law, and one that should not be overlooked by the international community.

Stoning is not prescribed in the Quran, and some Muslim-majority nations such as Malaysia, Tunisia and Algeria have banned death by stoning. Even in Indonesia, where over 90% of the population is considered to be from Muslim communities, stoning is prohibited as a form of torture by the national Constitution.

According to Komnas Perempuan (the National Commission on Violence Against Women), the most controversial point of the legislation passed by the Aceh Legislative Council is that for the first time stoning to death would be codified in the Indonesian legal system and Islamic jurisdiction would be expanded into criminal law when in fact national law should carry legal authority.

I also wish to point out that apart from the sentence of stoning to death, the new Qanun Jinayah (Islamic Criminal Legal Code) will bring about the following problems:

• Rape cases will be lumped with cases of consensual sex outside marriage, i.e. zina.

• Marital rape will be legalised.

• The victim of rape will be accused of being the guilty party in the case where the victim reports her rape but is unable to provide four male witnesses.

• Impunity will be given to rapists who rape at the command of superiors with authority

• There will be harsh criminalisation of alleged ‘homosexual behaviour’ based on dress and mannerisms


I join Komnas Perempuan and allies in Indonesia in appealing to the following decision-makers:

• We call on the Indonesian Constitutional Court (MK) to undertake a judicial review of Law No. 11/2006 of the Government of Aceh (LOGA) concerning the sources the Aceh Legislative Council has used to pass the law.

• We call on the Governor of Aceh to take serious action to postpone the implementation of this legislation which incorporates certain interpretations of sharia law, and to support an open and comprehensive judicial review.

• We call on the Minister of Domestic Affairs to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Domestic Affairs in preventing the creation of discriminatory local regulations that are against the national Constitution.

• Most important of all, we encourage the President of the Republic of Indonesia to stand firm in his commitment to women’s and human rights, and to take political action by issuing a Presidential Instruction for all government officials in the ministries and local government to conduct a comprehensive review of and repeal discriminatory and unconstitutional regulations, especially the new law in Aceh.

Yours sincerely,



ADDRESSES: Please be reminded that the fax numbers may not work for the duration of the Idul Fitri holiday, which ends on 25 September. Therefore, we ask for your patience and advise that in the meantime you urgently POST your solidarity letters. • His Excellency The President of the Republic of Indonesia Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono State Secretariate Jalan Veteran No. 17-19 Jakarta Republic of Indonesia Fax: +62-21-3502285 • Governor of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Jalan Tjut Nyak Arief 219 Banda Aceh Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Fax. +62-651-7553621 • Mr Hadi Utomo Chairperson Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat) Jl. Pemuda No. 712 Jakarta Timur 13220, Fax. +62 21 4757957 The Indonesian Ambassador in your country:  


Sharia law in Aceh The sharia law has been steadily expanding in Aceh over the last eight years. The Sharia Court (Mahkamah Syar’iyyah) was established in 2001 as part of the special autonomy granted the province. In 2002, the Aceh Legislative Council enacted the qanun (legal code) of the Sharia Court. The Sharia Court was formally inaugurated by Presidential decree in 2003. In 2004, there was a formal transfer of some criminal jurisdiction (jinayat) from the General Court to the Sharia Court by the decree of the Supreme Court. In 2005, the Sharia Court was in full operation and executing its verdicts. Among the laws that has been passed are mandatory headscarves for women, prohibition on alcohol, morality policing, compulsory prayers, and caning sentences meted out for gambling.

On Monday 14 September 2009, the expansion of sharia law took a quantum leap with the legislation of new punishments that are cruel, inhuman and degrading:

• Adultery: 100 cane lashes for the unmarried and stoning to death for those who are married

• Homosexuality: 100 cane lashes and a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of fine gold, or imprisonment of up to 100 months

• Pedophilia: Up to 200 cane lashes and a fine of up to 2,000 grams of fine gold, or maximum imprisonment of 200 months

• Rape: At least 100 cane lashes and maximum 300 cane lashes or imprisonment of at least 100 months and a maximum of 200 months Both opponents and supporters of the new law demonstrated outside parliament.

According to news reports, all members of the 69-seat house voted for the bill, although some parliamentarians had previously voiced their opposition. Assembly member and supporter of the bill, Bahrom Rasjid, stated “This law will be effective in 30 days with or without the approval of Aceh’s governor”.

It has been reported that the Governor of Aceh, a former rebel with the Free Aceh Movement, is opposed to the imposition of strict Muslim laws. Moderates are urging more debate over this bill, involving religious leaders and the opinions of civil society. These new laws affect not only women, but in practice, women are far more likely to become victims of stoning.

Even though there is no article in law that mandates punishment by stoning exclusively for women, patriarchal and discriminatory practices, interpretations and policies, as well as biological differences such as pregnancy, make women far more likely than men to be found guilty of so-called “adultery”.

Other than the sentence of stoning to death, the new Qanun Jinayah (Islamic Criminal Legal Code) will bring about the following problems:

• Simplification of the problems of rape (the threat of the law lumping together rape cases with cases of consensual sex outside marriage, i.e. zina)

• Legalisation of rape in the household • Making the victim of rape the guilty party (which should actually be the rapist) if the victim were to report that she had been raped but is unable to provide four male witnesses who saw her being raped

• Impunity given to rapists who rape at the command of superiors with authority – a frightening prospect if Aceh were to be again a site of military operations, as the rapists would be able to rape freely with this law

• Harsh criminalization of alleged “homosexual behaviour” based on dressing and mannerisms

The potential for conflict between communities is already beginning to be visible. Fokus (a pseudonym used by a KAMMI activist) has communicated to the media that they are going to chase out of Aceh those who ask for the Qanun to be rejected. Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), the fundamentalist Justice and Prosperity Party, said in a press conference in Aceh (17 September 2009) that all those who oppose the Qanun Jinayat are the stooges of “foreigners.” In Lhokseumawe, “religious people” who are arrested for assaulting others are asking for their cases to be moved from the General Court to the Sharia Court. They feel that the Sharia Court will judge them favourably because what they have done is to implement the Islamic sharia, according to how the Qanun is supposed to have regulated the duties of society.