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Indonesia: Aceh Province Law Expands Caning Punishment to Adultery and Homosexual Acts

A provincial law on criminal offenses under Sharia law, passed in 2014, came into effect on October 23, 2015, in Indonesia’s Aceh Province, the only part of the country that enforces Islamic Sharia law.

(Aceh Regulation No. 6, 2014, Aceh government website (Oct. 22, 2014).)

The local regulation prescribes a punishment of 100 strokes of a cane for adultery, public displays of affection by unmarried couples, or any homosexual act. The regulation applies to local residents and to foreigners in the province. (Ashley Hogan, Indonesia’s Aceh Province Begins to Enforce Anti-Gay Law, PAPER CHASE (Oct. 23, 2015); Indonesia’s Aceh Introduces Strict Anti-Gay Law, BBC NEWS (Oct. 23, 2015); Reza Munawir, Indonesia’s Aceh Province Enacts Islamic Criminal Code, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Oct. 24, 2015).) The canings will be public, reportedly designed to shame those punished. (Munawir, supra.)

The regulation, the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code (Qanun Jinayat), adds to the number of offenses for which caning is a punishment in Aceh. The offenses punished that way under previous provincial regulations include gambling, consumption of alcohol, and fraternizing with the opposite sex outside of marriage. According to Syahrizal Abbas, the Head of the Department of Islamic Sharia of Aceh, the law does not violate the human rights of gay individuals because they can live together as long as there is no sexual relationship. He explained that “[i]t is forbidden because in the sharia context, the act is vile. … It brings [an] unhealthy psychological impact to human development, and it will affect the community.” (Id.; Press Release, Amnesty International, ASA 21/2726/2015, Indonesia: Repeal or Revise All Provisions in the New Aceh Islamic Criminal Code that Violate Human Rights (Oct. 23, 2015) (click on link to download text in pdf).)

Other Sharia-influenced regulations in the province include requirements that boys and girls be educated separately and that Muslim women wear a hijab (a scarf that covers the hair but not the face) and not straddle a motorcycle when riding with a driver. (Id.) Since June 2015, under an order from the mayor of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, restaurants, sports venues, Internet cafes, and tourist attractions in the city are forbidden to host or serve women after 11:00 p.m., unless those women are accompanied by a male relative. (Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Curfew for Women in Provincial Capital, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 16, 2015).)


By Constance Johnson
Read the full article on the website of the Library of Congress

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Burma: Four “Race and Religion Protection Laws” Adopted

Four laws known collectively as the Race and Religion Protection Laws, which were submitted to the Parliament of Burma (Myanmar) in December 2014, were adopted this spring by the Parliament and recently signed by Thein Sein, Burma’s President.

(Myanmar: Parliament Must Reject Discriminatory ‘Race and Religion’ Laws, Amnesty International website (Mar. 3, 2015).)

The Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, which is led by Buddhist monks, supported the adoption of the four laws.” (Id.; Hnin Yadana Zaw, Myanmar’s President Signs Off on Law Seen as Targeting Muslims, REUTERS (Aug. 31, 2015).) By contrast, in the view of Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, the laws “set out the potential for discrimination on religious grounds and pose the possibility for serious communal tension … . Now that these laws are on the books, the concern is how they are implemented and enforced.” (Hnin Yadana Zaw, supra; for an analysis of the four draft laws, see, for example, Myanmar: Parliament Must Reject Discriminatory ‘Race and Religion’ Laws, supra.)

Monogamy Law

Thein Sein signed into law on August 31 monogamy legislation that was adopted by the country’s Parliament on August 21. (Hnin Yadana Zaw, Myanmar’s President Signs Off on Law Seen as Targeting Muslims, REUTERS (Aug. 31, 2015).) The legislation makes it a criminal offense to have more than one spouse or to live with an unmarried partner who is not a spouse. An estimated five percent of Burma’s population is Muslim, and some members of this group reportedly practice polygamy, but the government has denied that the new law targeted Muslims. (Id.)

According to a draft, unofficial English text of the legislation, the Monogamy Law as proposed concerned “all those who are living in Myanmar, Myanmar citizens who live outside of Myanmar, and foreigners who marry Myanmar citizens while living in Myanmar.” (Monogamy Bill (2014), art. 2, ONLINE BURMA/MYANMAR LIBRARY.) The draft states that after the law enters into force, “any marriage between a man and a woman in accordance with any law or any religion or any custom shall be legitimate only if monogamous.” (Id. art. 5.)

One of the provisions in Chapter 3 of the draft law, on “Prohibition on Extramarital Affairs,” prescribes that “any man or woman who is already married with one spouse or more than one spouse in accordance with a law or a religion or a custom, shall not enter, while the original union is still legally recognized, into another marriage with another person or conduct an illegal extramarital affair.” (Id. art. 9.) The same prohibition applies to “any man or woman who is already married in accordance with a law or a religion or a custom.” (Id. art. 10.) Anyone who, while still part of a legally recognized original union, enters into another marriage in contravention of article 9 or 10, will “be deemed to commit the act of polygamy or conjugal infidelity under section 494 of the Penal Code.” (Id. art. 16.)


By Hameema Rahman and Wendy Zeldin

Read the full article on the website of the Library of Congress

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More than 90 per cent of Muslim women in India reject the triple talaq and polygamy

A survey of Muslim women by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), put the spotlight on the needs of the muslim woman in India.

In the survey it was found that more than 90 percent of Muslim women in India want the “triple talaq” divorce ritual and polygamy banned from family civil law in the country.

The BMMA said its survey also showed that three quarters of interviewees wanted a ban on child marriage, indicating a need for reforms in the Muslim personal law which governs family-related issues in India.

Activists say the current law discriminates against women and are calling for a well-defined Muslim law that criminalises polygamy, unilateral divorce, child custody and child marriage.

In its statement the BMMA said “It (the survey) suggests that Muslim women are aware of their legal rights and are determined to attain justice in family matters. An overwhelming number of women demand reforms in Muslim personal law as is prevalent in India today,”.
By New Delhi Times Bureau

Read full article on the New Delhi Times website

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Myanmar’s Parliament Approves Controversial Interfaith Marriage Law

Lawmakers in Myanmar passed contentious legislation on Tuesday that imposes restrictions on interfaith marriages in the predominantly Buddhist country, despite opposition from rights advocates who say it discriminates against women and Muslims in the conservative, predominantly Buddhist country.

The law requires Buddhist women and men of other faiths to register their intent to marry with local authorities, who will display a public notice of the engagements. Couples can marry only if there are no objections; but if they violate the law, they could face imprisonment.

Critics have argued that the legislation does not apply the law equally to all people and flies in the face of domestic and international human rights standards.

“This kind of law shouldn’t be issued by parliament because it is not an essential law for all ethnic [groups] in Myanmar; it is just a law that discriminates against ethnic people when it comes to religion,” said Zar Talam, an ethnic Chin lawmaker from the Htantlang constituency of Chin state in western Myanmar.

Proponents, however, say the law will protect Buddhist women who marry outside their faith.

“This law was written for Myanmar Buddhist women who marry men from other religions so they have equal rights in marriage, divorce, inheritance and taking care of children, as well as have effective protection,” said Saw Hla Tun, a member of parliament’s Draft Law Committee.

The law is part of a series of four laws on marriage, religion, polygamy, and family planning proposed by a Buddhist organization called the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, which is affiliated with a nationalist Buddhist monk group.


Reported by Win Naung Toe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Read the full article on the Radio Free Asia website

United Russia activists create ‘flag for straights’ to oppose ‘gay fever’

The Moscow city branch of the parliamentary majority United Russia party has created a ‘flag for straights’. They want to use it in their campaign in defense of traditional values against aggressive LGBT propaganda.

The flag exists in three variants where a stylized picture of a husband, wife, and three children are pictured holding hands against a background of white, blue and red – the colors of the Russian national flag. Under the picture is the hashtag #realfamily in Russian.

Deputy head of United Russia’s Moscow organization said in comments with the popular daily Izvestia that the flag will be officially presented at the Day of Family Love and Faithfulness celebrated in Russia on Wednesday. Aleksey Lisovenko emphasized the new symbol was designed to counter the LGBT community’s rainbow flag.

This is our answer to same sex marriages, this mockery of the very concept of family. We must prevent gay fever in our country and support traditional values,” Izvestia quoted the activist as saying.

Last month, Aleksey Lisovenko sent a letter to the State Duma asking the parliament to ban the use of the LGBT community’s rainbow flag in Russia, including on websites and social networks.

Read the full story on Russia Today now

Georgia: Orthodoxy in the classroom

Georgia’s liberal politicians say only alignment with Europe and the US will allow the country to overcome its post-Soviet past and survive as an independent nation.

But is the country’s anti-Western and increasingly influential Orthodox Church using schools to breed a generation of religious conservatives whose beliefs are more aligned with Vladimir Putin’s Russia than the West?

When 14-year-old Giorgi came home from school on 16 October 2014 in Tbilisi, Georgia, his older brother Dato knew immediately something was wrong. Bruised and battered, Giorgi described how four older boys took turns kicking him in front of other schoolmates. “This wasn’t just a boys’ fight,” Dato says.

Giorgi was beaten because he had called himself an atheist.

Rights groups say this is just one example of growing religious intolerance in Georgia’s state schools, fostered by what they say is a campaign of indoctrination encouraged by the country’s Orthodox Church.

“They told me: ‘You offend our religion, you are an infidel,'” Giorgi says. The school principal confirmed the story, but said the issue has been resolved.

But the brothers, who didn’t want their last name used, say the intimidation has continued, and they are angry the perpetrators have not been punished. The only alternative school is private, they say, and their parents can’t afford it.

School battlegrounds

Dato’s atheism puts him in a minority in Georgia. More than 80% of Georgians call themselves Orthodox, with the young among the most religious.

But the church’s conservative message is increasingly at odds with the country’s liberal, pro-Western direction, which paradoxically most Georgians also support.

Schools have become an ideological battleground.


By Natalia Antelava
Read the full article on the BBC website

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The Rise Of Brazil’s Guardians Of The Altar

Social conservatives have taken control of Brazil’s Congress and are trying to reverse marriage equality and other progressive victories.

A group of hard-faced young men marched military style through a cheering crowd, giving straight-armed salutes. “Thank the Lord, we are here today ready for battle, and determined to serve you — We are Gladiators of the Altar,” they declared, in a video that went viral in February.

The video wasn’t a clip from an army training exercise or propaganda for some sort of militia. According to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which posted the video, the Gladiators of the Altar program essentially amounts to a Bible study class for at-risk young men. The video, posted in February by a Universal Church in the northern coastal city of Fortaleza, got around one million views in the 24 hours before the church took it offline, following widespread uproar.

The video caught fire in part because it embodied the ideological battle now playing out in Brazil’s capital. Backed by the country’s rapidly growing evangelical population, a large number of religious conservatives won election in October as part of a broad conservative coalition that now controls Congress. They have taken office bent on reversing recent gains for LGBT rights, including a 2013 decision by a judicial panel that established marriage equality nationwide. Progressives have struggled to draw public attention to the implications of the vote, in part because even President Dilma Rousseff — who supports LGBT rights — courted evangelical support for her reelection.


By J. Lester Feder
Read the full article from BuzzFeed