This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
Public canings are business as usual in Aceh, the only Indonesian province that practices the strict Islamic law known as Sharia. In an effort to better abide by Sharia, the province formed its first all-women flogging team to carry out punishments against female offenders.
One of the most recent recipients of this form of punishment was an unmarried woman who was caught in a hotel room with a man. Donning a brown cloak, rattan cane at the ready, the executioner delivered swift blows to the shoulder of the convicted woman, who was kneeling on the stage dressed in a white niqab.
"I think she did a good job,” Banda Aceh Sharia police chief investigator Zakwan, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP. “Her technique was nice."
Aceh is currently home to eight women executioners. Zakwan said it was initially difficult to convince them to do the job but after years of persistence, he was able to form the nation’s first all-woman flogging team. He trained them on caning techniques and how to minimise wounds.
“We are essentially indoctrinating them to understand their roles — to show no mercy to those who violate God’s law,” Zakwan said.
The first caning by a female executioner in Aceh took place on December 10 last year, when a 26-year-old woman was caught with four military men in a private setting. She was sentenced to five lashes. The four men? They evaded a caning and were tried separately in a military court.
Being caught alone with a member of the opposite sex as an unmarried person — along with drinking alcohol, using drugs, and having gay or extramarital sex — will likely earn you a flogging in Aceh. Sharia police are on the lookout for offenders 24 hours a day, routinely patrolling public places and conducting busts based on tips from locals. Sharia law in Aceh supposedly applies equally to Acehnese of all ranks, but corrupt officials have managed to avoid public floggings. In October, an Aceh religious leader involved in creating anti-adultery laws was publicly flogged for adultery, marking the first time a public figure was subjected to the punishment.
Human rights activists continue to criticise the practice of caning. Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, Usman Hamid, declared the practice inhumane and degrading. “This form of punishment is cruel, inhumane, degrading, and tortuous. These canings are held as public spectacles meant to humiliate. Nobody deserves such cruel treatment as this,” Hamid told DW.