2010_Indonesia_CheckpointThe two women were arrested after sharing a hug in public

A young lesbian couple from Indonesia faces “rehabilitation” after being arrested earlier last week.

Islamic Shariah police in the conservative Aceh province arrested the two young women after witnessing the two huggings each other.

Police Chief Evendi Latief said, “because they were sitting, embracing and hugging, officers immediately checked and we suspect they were a lesbian couple.”

Four days of questioning later, Latief stated “They later confessed to being a lesbian couple and that was supported by pictures found on their handphones.”

The women face “rehabilitation”, a process that involves speaking to a psychologist from the local Social Ministry office, instead of being charged.

The new criminal code that criminalizes homosexuality in Aceh doesn’t take effect until later this month. If charged the women could have faced 100 cane lashes, a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of gold, or imprisonment that could last up to 100 months.

Aceh’s criminal code differs from Indonesia’s national criminal code. The central government does not regulate homosexuality. In 2006, Aceh was granted the right to implement Shariah law in order to end a separatist war.

These laws regulate same-sex relationships and adultery, gambling, alcohol consumption, women wearing tight clothes, and men skipping Friday prayers.

Human Rights Watch Graeme Reid, the director for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program, stated “The arrest of two women in Aceh for everyday behaviour is an outrageous abuse of police power that should be considered a threat to all Indonesians. The Indonesian government needs to press Aceh to repeal its discriminatory new by-laws.”

Shariah law enforcement has denied that any human rights were violated, noting that the women were held for four days of questioning before being handed over to the regular police.

Human Rights Watch called on the Indonesian government to release the two women, citing the direct violations of nondiscrimination and fundamental freedoms protected under Indonesia’s constitution.