When the New Year chimed in parts of Aceh, Indonesia, the calendar rolled over from 2012 to 1413. At least, that is what seemed to happen, in the opinion of many Acehnese and friends. A raft of new laws not only overrode Indonesia's national laws with sharia. They also brought back stoning, whipping and punishments out of the Dark Ages for adultery and the crime of being gay.
The mayor of Lhokseumawe city in Aceh said his government is tightening supervision of "morals and behaviours" in his jurisdiction. Suaidi Yahya marked the start of the year by sending new orders and instructions to government officials and town residents. Women must sit side-saddle on motorcycles to avoid looking like a man. He also backed new laws which supposedly will punish unchaperoned male-female meetings and homosexual acts by flogging with bamboo staves, and adultery by stoning.
Whether these laws will actually be enforced with such barbaric punishments remains to be seen. There is plenty of opposition to them. In the past, the Aceh province governor has refused to sign authorisation for gruesome enforcement. But what is troubling is the continuing silence from the top ranks of government and Muslim authority in Jakarta.
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