Sharia law draft targets poor and women, say rights activists A draft sharia law in Aceh that calls for thieves to have their hands chopped off has angered many in the province. But the local religious authority says the law is not a big deal and reflects the will of the people. Local human rights activist Aguswandi has called the proposal 'absurd and unacceptable' and said corruption, rather than common theft, should be punished. 'If they really want the law it should target corruptors as they damage society much more,' said the activist, reflecting what most local activists think. Aceh is Indonesia's fourth poorest province and its most corrupt. Transparency International rates Indonesia among the most corrupt nations in the world. 'They have taken advantage of the election and drafted this proposal while most people's attention was focused elsewhere,' added Aguswandi, who like many Indonesians has only one name. Aceh last week held its first direct vote to elect the governor, his deputy and 19 district heads and mayors. The election followed a peace agreement between independence rebels and Jakarta. Aceh is the only province empowered to apply the sharia law in full. But critics are already saying its applications are biased against the poor and women. 'It is not a matter of being against sharia; I am a Muslim and I am not against it in principle,' women's advocate Arabiyani said. 'It is a matter of having a fair sharia that does not target the most vulnerable and does not put its emphasis on punishment.' In the past 15 months, 135 people have been beaten for crimes such as drinking alcohol, gambling or having illicit relations with the opposite sex. Women also face lashes for not wearing their headscarves properly in public. But Dhiauddin, vice-chairman of Aceh's Dinas Sharia Islam, the office entrusted to legislate on the sharia and supervise its implementation, said the matter had been blown out of proportion. 'This regulation cannot be simplified as if hand amputation is the only punishment for robbery,' he said, adding they were only proposing a law that reflected Acehnese will. 'It is like this: the community asked us to make regulations on what should be the punishment for a thief according to sharia. And sharia says that thieves can be punished with lashes or finger amputation,' he explained. 'But it depends on the case.' The draft law needs the approval of the provincial government and the signature of the governor to be made into law. Irwandi Yusuf, the former GAM rebel who is ahead in the counting of the votes for the province's top job, has already said he will not sign the decree. The election result will be known on January 2.