Saturday, August 10, 2013
There’s an interesting and depressing article in the July 6th edition of the Economist; it has to do with Southeast Asia’s continuing (and in some cases increasing) intolerance towards homosexuality and gay rights. The main topic of “Fifty Shades of Pink” is the burgeoning gay community in Singapore and Thailand and its steady climb out of the closet and into mainstream life. This newfound tolerance is present in few other southeast Asian nations, however; the article specifically singles out Indonesia as one of the more intolerant countries, even though “homosexuality is legal in every province bar Aceh.”
It was my understanding that Aceh is still under the Indonesian constitution. Aceh continually shoots itself in the foot by playing fast and loose with “autonomy.” Last year we brought back stoning for adulterers. This year, women couldn’t ride astride a moped, and if they did ride (sidesaddle), they were not allowed to touch the driver. We don’t know exactly how many women and babies had to fall off the backs of mopeds and get crushed in oncoming traffic for this law to be repealed. Still, the incredibly arcane and vicious restrictions this province puts on its people in the name of Sharia is downright sickening. To my mind these edicts and thou-shalt-nots have nothing to do with faith or spirituality so much as a misguided desire on the part of those in power to “show” the central government that even though the peace accord has been signed, Aceh will not meekly tow Jakarta’s party line. But these leaders, this lucky GAM cream that rose to the top while the majority of combatants still wait to be compensated, enact their legislation at the expense of the welfare and quality of life of Aceh’s citizens.