The price she paid was higher for being a woman than for adultery. In the Aceh region of Indonesia, where the sharia law is active, a couple recently received severe public flogging for having extramarital affairs, as per reports. Though one would think they were equally party to the ‘crime,’ the punishment meted out to them reflected anything but equality. The woman received 100 whips, the man only 15.
The sharia law, an Islamic order of life identified for its conservative diktats, is a hot subject of scrutiny often. More so, in the wake of the Taliban imposing variations of it in Afghanistan since seizing power in August 2021. The sharia allows for physical punishment against homosexuality, drinking, unmarried sex, to name a few offences.
In Indonesia, which is a Muslim-majority country, Aceh is reportedly the only area with a sharia imposition. Crowds of people watched on as the woman and man accused of adultery were flogged in public Thursday.
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Indonesia Woman Flogged, Had To Ask For Pause In Beating Because Of Pain
According to AFP, the man held guilty received only 15 lashings because, as quoted by a cop, “he admitted nothing” and authorities were “not able to prove whether he is guilty.”
The woman, on the other hand, who confessed to the crime, was lashed with such conviction that she apparently asked for a breather in the middle of the punishment since the pain was too much to bear.
Does corporal punishment effect change? Does it have place in a civilised society?
The idea that the woman involved in a relationship riding on adultery is guiltier than her male partner is neither new nor uncommon. It is prevalent to some degree in most societies, even the ones touting to be most modern. Women, in every culture, are held to a higher level of moral expectations than men.
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This is also why women are unfairly punished far more excessively for indulging in behaviours considered to be morally corrupting. The social stigma binds tighter around women.
Even in India, albeit in the thankful absence of legal flogging, coming down heavily on women seen to be transgressing moral boundaries, for instance through cheating and adultery in relationships, to stay within context, is the accepted norm. Men, meanwhile, get away by ‘being men who will never change.’
In June last year, the video of a woman in West Bengal thrashed and paraded naked around her village by the community over suspicions of an extramarital affair went viral. Similar affairs played out when another video, this time from Gujarat, emerged of a tribal woman being stripped and beaten by her husband and other villagers accusing her of an affair.
This happened despite a woman in Tripura ending her life only a few weeks prior in May, after being meted the same treatment of humiliation over alleged adultery.
Where the law should be activated impartially, patriarchal bias comes into play driven by a sense of community justice. Can corporal punishment ever qualify as justice, especially when it is heady with misogyny? Should inhumane methods like flogging be allowed to thrive in a civilised society that continues to push for greater human rights?
A woman is understood to be not just a flagbearer of morality in herself but also hold the fort for righteous virtue for the rest of her family. It comes under the oath of her domestic ‘duties’ foisted on her by patriarchy. Can the rejection of this regressive idea be the starting point to cover gender bias-shaped blindspots in frameworks like sharia??
Views expressed are the author’s own.