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Incestuous couple in Aceh banished

Nurdin Hasan - September 18, 2011

Banda Aceh – A brother and sister who had a child together have been banished from their Aceh village, despite officials struggling to find an offense to charge them with under the province's Shariah legal code.

The couple – 34-year-old M.N. and his sister, Y.W., a 30-year-old divorcee with two children – were told they were no longer welcome in their village in Susoh subdistrict in Southwest Aceh.

In July the two had a baby, but the child was adopted by a military officer in another district. The incestuous siblings were outed to village officials by a man who said he loaned the two money for the baby's delivery.

But Muddasir, the head of Southwest Aceh's Shariah Police, said there was no bylaw explicitly prohibiting incest.

"After consulting with local community and religious leaders, we decided that the brother and sister must be banished from their village, because what they did brought shame to the community," Muddasir said.

"This is a customary sanction and is a lifetime banishment. They are forbidden from returning to the village, except if their parents or family members die, and then only for 10 days of mourning; afterward, they have to leave."

Muddasir said the sanction had been formalized in a statement signed by leaders of the community and representatives of the pair's family. The pair were also ordered to separate. Muddasir said he did not know where the siblings would go, adding that M.N. went north while Y.W. traveled south, on a bus.

"The family also agreed to banish the siblings because they also disgraced the family's honor," he said. "The community was also happy with the decision because acts of violence [against the pair] have been averted."

The two were previously taken to the police, but were released due to a lack of laws regarding incest. "They told us the incestuous sex took place in 2010 when M.N. came into his sister' bedroom, asking her to give him a massage," Muddasir said.

"Y.W. said they only did it once but I think it had to be more than once, because they live in the same house," he added.

Authorities earlier said they could not force the pair to wed because they were related. Muddasir said under Shariah law, the pair should be stoned to death, but Aceh did not have that kind of punishment on its books.

This is not the first time Muddasir has had to acknowledge the limits of Aceh's Islamic bylaws. In August, he said he was clueless about how to handle a case involving the marriage of two lesbians. The two women were eventually forced to separate with the promise that they would never see each other again.