Indonesia: Anti-LGBT sentiments fanned by government – HRW
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Indonesia: Anti-LGBT sentiments fanned by government – HRW

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (HRW) has accused the Indonesian government of playing a role in the rise of anti-LGBT sentiments in the Muslim-majority country this year.

The human rights group released a 56-page report entitled “‘These Political Games Ruin Our Lives’: Indonesia’s LGBT Community Under Threat” on Thursday, which documents the “hateful rhetoric, discriminatory edicts, and the use of force to repress peaceful assembly” used in the government campaign.

According to the report, earlier this year, government officials made a series of biased and untrue statements regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, sparking harassment and violence against members of the community, and even death threats by militant Islamists.

The group claimed that state institutions, including the National Broadcasting Commission and the National Child Protection Commission, issued internal censorship directives banning information and broadcasts that attempted to “normalize” LGBT people and their lives.

HRW’s LGBT researcher and the report’s author, Kyle Knight, said: “The discriminatory actions of Indonesian officials and institutions has laid bare the depth and breadth of the government’s prejudice – and the campaign of hate is apparently not over yet.”

“The anti-LGBT rhetoric also exposed the government’s unwillingness to stand between a marginalized minority and its attackers – a most basic failure to protect, similar to Indonesia’s recent record on religious minorities,” he added.

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Currently, a group of professors are campaigning to amend the national criminal code to include consensual sexual behavior by adults of the same sex, which would effectively criminalize homosexuality. If the petition for the changes were to pass, those found guilty of the offense could be punished with up to five years in prison.

In January, Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir incited a public outcry when he spoke of implementing a ban on LGBT student organizations from all university campuses.

He claimed that such organizations were “not in accordance with the values and morals of Indonesia.”

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Since then, the anti-LGBT wave has only grown stronger. But now, LGBT groups are hitting back, criticizing President Joko Widodo and the government for their complicit silence regarding the issue.

One 25-year-old gay man from South Sulawesi province told HRW: “I don’t feel safe with seeing all the ‘end LGBT’ statements on social media. I feel like a dog. Police and government should protect us – not participate in this.”

“At a time when LGBT Indonesians needed protection and public support, Jokowi’s government has cowered in the face of militant Islamists,” said Knight.

The group has called on the Indonesian government to “immediately and publicly condemn discriminatory statements by public officials and state commissions, and uphold nondiscrimination in its health, public information, and public security operations”.

Here are some of the comments made during the report’s launch: