Aceh unveils female flogging squad

Stepping up: A female flogger arriving to whip a woman in public in Banda Acheh. — AFP

Banda Aceh: The masked woman nervously approaches her target, shuffles into position and then unleashes a flurry of lashes – proving herself as the newest member of the first female flogging squad in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

The new recruit needed some coaxing to punish the offender – an unmarried woman caught in a hotel room with a man.

Such behaviour constitutes a morality crime in Aceh, the only region in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation that imposes Islamic law.

Those found guilty of its breaches are often publicly whipped with a rattan cane.

But despite her reticence, she delivered her first flogging.

“I think she did a good job. Her technique was nice,” Banda Aceh Sharia police chief investigator Zakwan, who uses one name, said.

Indonesia’s president has issued a call for the public floggings to stop but he has little say.

Aceh follows religious law as part of a 2005 autonomy deal agreed with the central government that ended a decades-long separatist insurgency.

Here, public whipping is a common punishment for a range of charges including gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and gay or pre-marital sex.

But the job has always been done by men. Until now.

More women are charged for crimes such as public affection or premarital sex, experts say, as greater globalisation brings clashes with cultural norms.

Enforcement too has risen and now Aceh says it’s trying to follow Islamic law, which calls for women to whip female perpetrators, which is what happens in neighbouring Malaysia.

But convincing women to participate was no easy task, taking years to assemble a female squad, said Safriadi, who heads provincial capital Banda Aceh’s Sharia Implementation Unit.

Eight female Sharia officers agreed to be floggers and were trained in proper technique and how to limit injury. — AFP

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