Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – An activist has condemned the latest case of sexual violence in Aceh, which involved a group of men allegedly raiding the home of a woman they accused of being engaged in extramarital sex, and raping her.
"The rape of a woman accused of having violated Islamic law is a barbaric act," Destika Gilang Lestari, coordinator of the Aceh Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said on Monday.
"Whatever the reason, what they had done is unacceptable. They mean to uphold Islamic law but instead violate both that and Indonesia's criminal law. The perpetrators have to be handed the heaviest possible punishment."
According to reports, the victim, a 25-year-old widow, was harassed and raped by eight men, including a 13-year-old boy, during a raid at her home in Langsa Barat subdistrict in the East Aceh city of Langsa on Thursday.
The perpetrators had allegedly beaten the victim and tied up her male friend before violating her. They reportedly also drenched the couple with water from a nearby sewer prior to handing them over to village officials.
Destika attributed such cases of local residents looking to implement Shariah law in Aceh to weak law enforcement efforts and government permissiveness.
"The police do not seem serious in prosecuting perpetrators, encouraging people to justify acts of violence for the sake of Islamic law, when in fact Islamic law strongly prohibits acts of violence," she said.
Destika cited a rape case in the city of Langsa in 2010, where a Shariah police officer was found to have been the main perpetrator, as an example of a lack of strict law-enforcement efforts. Officials reportedly never arrested the Shariah police officer, despite having sanctioned two other suspects in the case.
"Other big cases that have grabbed the public's attention is the mass rioting and the burning of a religious tutor and his student in the Bireuen district in Nov. 2012 who was accused of heresy. Police have never taken legal action against the perpetrators," the Aceh Kontras coordinator said.
"What's funny is that law-enforcement officials instead sanctioned the tutor's family members. The police should not have been selective in enforcing the law. They should prosecute anyone who is guilty of a crime."
The activist added that in several cases of public violence, the perpetrators had enjoyed initial support from the government. "The Banda Aceh administration has established a militia, saying they were there to support Islamic law, but they would use violence in their operations," she said.
Data by Kontras's Aceh branch shows that in the past four months alone, 10 cases have been recorded involving local residents, while in 2013, cases related to the implementation of Islamic law had declined sharply to only five from the 50 in 2012.
Public involvement in implementing Shariah law is acceptable, she said, as long as those involved are trained not to use violence and that they are briefed to immediately report to the Shariah police should any violation of Shariah law be found so as to have the case appropriately processed.
"So they don't take the law into their own hands. Many cases of violence by local residents are those perpetrated against individuals suspected of having been involved in adultery. Almost in every suspected case, the couple who were discovered are beaten and drenched with dirty water," Destika said.