An Indonesian woman is caned in front of a crowd of onlookers after being found guilty of prostitution in Banda Aceh [File: Oviyandi Emnur/Reuters]

Banda Aceh, Indonesia – Hendra, an academic in Indonesia‘s semi-autonomous region of Aceh, vaguely remembers the first time he saw a public caning take place in his 20s. It was years ago and it didn’t faze him much.

The 35-year-old cannot even remember what the people were accused of – just that they were taken to a public square at a local mosque and flogged with a rattan cane in front of a crowd of onlookers.

But in recent years, Hendra, a lecturer in communications at Ar-Raniry University in Banda Aceh, has started to feel differently.

Now he avoids public canings. “I

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