Banda Aceh – A young woman screamed in pain as she was caned in front of a jeering crowd in Aceh, Indonesia, the latest person to be punished after being found guilty of breaking the province's strict Islamic laws.
Aceh is the only province in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes sharia law. People face floggings for a range of offences – from gambling to drinking alcohol and gay sex.
The woman was among 13 people – seven men and six women aged between 21 and 30 – who were caned at a mosque in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, as a baying crowd cheered the spectacle.Six couples were found guilty of breaking Islamic laws on intimacy, such as touching, hugging and kissing, between unmarried people.
A man was caned for a less serious offence described as spending time with a member of the opposite sex in a hidden location in a fashion that could lead to adultery.
One 22-year-old woman was granted a temporary reprieve as she was pregnant. But Aceh's deputy mayor, Zainal Arifin, said: "The punishment will be handed down after she gives birth."
He added that he hoped the canings would serve as a deterrent: "We hope there are no more people in Banda Aceh who break the law in future."
More and more people are being caned in Aceh. The number of women being flogged has particularly increased in recent times.
The province, on Sumatra island, began implementing sharia law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.
Islamic laws have been strengthened since Aceh struck a peace deal with Jakarta in 2005. More than 90% of Indonesians describe themselves as Muslim, but the vast majority practise a moderate form of the faith.