Aceh's Sharia Police have caned a few people of late for the 'crimes' of adultery and gambling.
The idea that these two particular activities are crimes in the human realm is indicative of our over-zealousness to do God's work. For the true believers, it would seem that you do not trust God to do that which God does, punish those who sin against him (or her) by breaking the rules. In any event, they are God's rules so perhaps God should also be responsible for meting out the punishment.
The idea of a public caning always reminds me of going to the movies when I was a kid and watching a western. In particular, the ones where there is a public hanging, which in turn draws big crowds of onlookers. I have never really since the spectacle value of public executions or in this case canings. I have always wondered, but never enough to do a psychology degree, whether this was just a simple case of blood-thirstiness with the prospect of watching someone die or be physically beaten to a bloody mess. Maybe that can be my next course of study.
Nevertheless, canings in Aceh are reportedly to be more about public humiliation than they are about inflicting pain. Supporters of caning argue that there is a huge deterrent effect because of the physical nature of the punishment. Yet, the reality is there are very strict rules in place for where men and women can be caned with respect to body parts and how hard these lashes can be. Truth be told, when I was in high school, corporal punishment was still an available option for teachers to control unruly students (or those who were too big a smart arses for their own good, like me). So, I am thinking with the cane in the "right" person's hand, some serious pain and physical damage can be inflicted.
The adulterers each received eight strokes of the best from the cane master (or is that cane master lash?). The maximum penalty under the relevant Qanun, No. 14 of 2003, as I recall is nine strokes. There is also a minimum of three. So, I guess the offence was at the top end of the scale but it was not the most serious form of adulterous behaviour.
The gamblers received eight and seven lashes of the cane respectively. Interestingly, this means that gambling and adultery are pretty much on the same seriousness level in this case. These gentlemen were in breach of the provisions of Qanun No. 13 of 2003.
These canings follow a series of canings that took place in June. It would seem that the Acehnese authorities are ratcheting up the caning activities in the lead up to Ramadan.
One final point, if it was me about to be caned and I was walking up to the public caning platform in order to receive my punishment for whatever it is that I had been sentenced for, I would not know whether to laugh or cry having had a look at the fashion sense of the executioner! There seriously must be potential for the launch of a whole "executioner" line of tailored fashions.