[Blog] The Barbarism and Inhumanity of Aceh’s Shariah ‘law’ and Mr. Yudhoyono’s ‘legacy’. By Jose Mario De Vega

The Barbarism and Inhumanity of Aceh’s Shariah ‘law’ and Mr. Yudhoyono’s ‘legacy’
By Jose Mario De Vega

I refer to Nurdin Hasan and Kennial Caroline Laia’s “Aceh Rape Victim to Be Caned, Shariah Official Insists”, The Jakarta Globe, May 7th with regard to the plight of “a woman in Aceh who was gang raped last week after being accused of having extramarital sex now faces the indignity of a public caning for the offense of having an affair.”

Mario De Vega


I condemn to the utmost on behalf of humanity the barbarism and inhumanity of Aceh’s Shariah law.

To be clear on my position, I would like to state at the onset that I am not against the idea of punishing a person if the same had violated the law, but we must be clear:

One, what ‘law’ are we talking about? Does it conform to the Constitution or not?

Two, whatever the hell is that ‘law’, the pertinent question there is: is it humane and civilized? Again, the question: does it conform to the fundamental law of the state?

Three, does the said ‘law’ applies to all regardless of the alleged offender’s race, sex, gender, religious creed, economic station in life, etc? Again, is the said ‘law’, constitutional or violative of the said charter?

If the answer to all the said questions is in the negative, then that ‘law’ is illegal and without basis for being unconstitutional, inhumane, barbaric and uncivilized!

Consider the words of Ibrahim Laif, he is “the head of the Shariah office in the eastern town of Langsa:

“We want the couple to be caned because they violated the religious bylaw on sexual relations…”

That is despite the horrible fact that the woman and her companion, a 40-year-old married man, were raided lawlessly and shamefacedly by a group of bastard men last Wednesday night at the woman’s home.

To quote from the said report above:

“The woman was raped by the eight vigilantes, three of whom have since been arrested. Her companion was tied up and beaten. The pair were also doused with sewage by the attackers, who later took them to the Shariah police, or Wilayatul Hisbah.

“Ibrahim said the fact that the woman had been raped would not be taken into consideration in determining the punishment for the religious crime that she was accused of committing.”

What kind of justice is this?

What is the right of those criminals and sexual monsters to rape the alleged erring woman, to beat and to tie her companion and to be doused by sewage by their demonic attackers?

According to that moralist Ibrahim:

“They have to be [caned] as a form of justice because the rapists will also be processed, but in a criminal court…”


Again, what kind of justice is this?

How come the woman who allegedly violated the laws on sexual relations shall be cane publicly base on Sharia law and her bastard rapists would be processed under criminal court?

Is that fair?

So what that idiotic Ibrahim is saying to the world is that: in Aceh, if you know of a woman who is having sex with a man not her husband, you can attack that woman, rape her, beat and tie her lover, doused them with sewage and then, you will not appear before the Sharia, but shall be process under a criminal court? While the woman that you abused and raped and violated shall be cane!

Is that it?

Wow! That is super bloody stupid, to say the least! Shame!

That wacko Ibrahim further stated, as if to justify their barbaric law that:

“Besides, they’ve confessed to having sex on several previous occasions, even though the man is married and has five children.”


A person who is being tortured and being beaten will not confess to any crime he or she is being accused of.

Hence, the said confession in a true blue court of law has no probative value whatsoever, because it was given under duress, using force, intimidation, harassment and violence.

Therefore, Ibrahim’s claim on the confession of the said couple is utterly questionable!

According further to the reports:

“Under the partial Shariah exercised in Aceh, the woman and her companion face up to nine strokes of the cane each. The rapists would have faced the same number of lashes had they been dragged through the Shariah process.

“Three of them, including a 13-year-old boy, have been arrested by police, who are still hunting for the five others.

“They are accused of gang raping the woman after barging into her house late last Wednesday and accusing her of having illegal sexual relations with the man.

“After assaulting the man and raping the woman, they marched the pair to the Shariah police. It was only during their interrogation of the victim that officers found out she had been raped.”


Does that so-called Sharia law allows anyone to put the law unto their own hands?

The Question of the Different laws

I concur with Ismail Hasani, “a scholar at Jakarta’s Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University”, when said “that the Shariah law system in Aceh had long been a subject of fierce debate.”

Below is his legal analysis:

“When we talk about law in Aceh, we talk about three different systems that are not clearly delineated: common law, Shariah law and national law. There is no boundary…”

The problem here besides the question of boundary is the utterly central question of statutory construction!

Consider the question: among the three laws, which among them, in the final analysis is more superior and determinative?

Another equally important question is: is the Shariah law in conformity with the Constitution of Indonesia? Or to put it in another way: is the existence and implementation of the Shariah law in harmony with the fundamental law of the land?

I overwhelmingly agree with Ismail Hasani that:

“Looking at this case, based on common law, the woman, even though she is a victim, still has to accept punishment. But when we take the national law perspective, she primarily is a victim who needs protection.”

I also share his view that “Aceh’s Shariah law system was dangerous in the sense that it had lead to victim blaming.”

Indeed, “it was unjust to view the woman only as a suspected adulterer after what she had been through.”

Undeniably, “this is also a case of rape. She has rights…”

“This is hypocrisy which is fostered continuously by Acehnese elites with a political view of Islam.

“Sure, the law has to be enforced, but a punishment like caning is excessive…. The punishment is imposed based on sexual imagination instead of legal facts…”

“Historically, caning in Islam is implemented strictly based on strong evidence. But in Aceh, it is done arbitrarily. The enforcement of the Shariah law is done based on prejudice and even for political reasons.”

The government must step in

Another notable individual, Arimbi Heroepoetri of the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said that the difference between rape and adultery should be made clear.

“And law enforcers must understand that the woman, as a gang-rape victim, must be traumatized…”

“The rape case must be prioritized. This issue of sexual abuse is urgent. They cannot leave the problem unsolved for too long.”

I concur with her fully that the survivor needed healing, not punishment.

Indeed, as she said: “She cannot just be caned right after being raped by eight men…”

Incontestably, Ismail is correct when he said “that the unfair implementation of Shariah law could lead to widespread legal discrimination.”

“There has to be a clear stance from the central government. We should not see the special autonomy of Aceh [which allows it to implement partial Shariah law] as special autonomy without boundaries…”

“Not every citizen in Aceh agrees with the current legal system. Some of them are being repressed by the law. So there has to be a debate among citizens and with the regional government in order to formulate a more humane Islamic law.

“We have to remember that justice is everyone’s right, and it is not happening at the moment in Aceh.”

Indonesia must review their policy or program with regard to Aceh. It does not mean that because Aceh enjoys a special autonomy they can now do everything that they please. So long as Aceh is part of Indonesia and regardless of the fact that they have autonomy still it is my firm view that their local law or Shariah law or whatever laws they are implementing must not violate or transgress the Constitution.

Mr. Yudhoyono’s ‘legacy’

It is so bloody ironic that no less than Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president said on Wednesday (May 7th) as he accepted an award for statesmanship that: “Indonesia is not a Muslim country and any efforts to turn it into one must be resisted…”

Mr. Yudhoyono specifically and categorically stated that Sukarno, Indonesia’s founding president, had explicitly and directly declared that “Indonesia was a secular country and not an Islamic one, and that this basic tenet of the republic must be upheld.”

Mr. Yudhoyono further said at the “Sukarno Center in Gianyar, Bali, where he was awarded the Sukarno Prize for championing humanity and democracy” that:

“We have to protect this. My fear is that there are changes, pushes and thinking that tend toward turning this country into a non-secular one. Secularity is final, and this is an important legacy that we have inherited from Sukarno and the other founders of this republic…”


Again, this is so bloody ironic! If Indonesia is a secular country, then why the hell they are allowing the so-called special autonomy of Aceh?

If Indonesia is a secular state, then why on earth they are allowing the existence and implementation of Shariah law on Indonesian land?

In my view, in order for Mr. Yudhoyono to be truly deserving of the Sukarno award, he must walk the talk, put his money where his mouth is, so to speak and act vigorously to stop discrimination against religious minorities, women and even those people who have different religion or no religion. It is ironic that these barbaric laws and bylaws have mushroomed throughout the country during his tenure.

Hence, it raises the necessary question: does he deserve the Sukarno award?

Consider the following ‘legacy’ of his sense of secularism and tolerance:

His administration has been rebuked and slammed for failing to act against local authorities in West Java who have shuttered churches in direct violation of Supreme Court rulings.

He allowed the continued persecution of Ahmadiyah and Shiite communities throughout the country, and his silence with regard to Aceh Shariah law.

If truly the Indonesian president is a close student and follower of the ideas and teachings of this country’s father and founder, then, the right thing to do for him is to help erasing discrimination, marginalization and exploitation of the minority, the different and women!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy/Social Science lecturer

College of Liberal Arts
Social Science Department
Technological University of the Philippines

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