Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown Is Escalating Quickly

Last month news surfaced that Indonesia’s government had banned LGBT-themed icons from use in online messaging services. As it turns out, this was just the tip of the iceberg — details of an even more pervasive crackdown have started to emerge.

In addition to shutting down a number of websites deemed to promote an anti-LGBT or anti-government agenda, the Indonesian government has also ordered TV programs with LGBT themes to go off the air.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu defended this decision by calling the LGBT community a “threat” that must be defeated with a “kind of modern warfare.” He added, ”It’s dangerous as we can’t see who our foes are, but out of the blue everyone is brainwashed”.

Indonesian lawmakers are now said to be mulling over a bill that would give government authorities broader powers to crack down on LGBT representation in the media. A commission of lawmakers in Indonesia’s House of Representatives have asked for ministers to consider the proposal.

“LGBT issues can damage national security, identity, culture and the faith of Indonesians,” commission chair Mahfudz Siddiq told The Jakarta Post.

Some media outlets have compared the situation to a Russian-style propaganda ban. The bill remains in the discussion stage, with no formal declaration as to its scope.

But so far there has been little indication that the Indonesian government even needs a new law analogous to Russia’s anti-homosexuality propaganda ban. Indonesia’s broadcasting body has already been able to ban “men acting as women” on screen, while the government retains a tight grip on most terrestrial media services.

The legislation, therefore, appears to target gaps in the law surrounding social media and messaging. No matter the exact wording of the bill, the effect will likely be the same — a ban of any and all positive portrayals of LGBTs in online media.

Other less publicized news regarding the anti-LGBT crackdown in Indonesia includes a recent classification of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism as psychiatric conditions that could lead to mental disorders. This declaration by the Indonesia Psychiatric Association serves as a means to deter people from identifying as LGBT.

“We really do care about them. What we are worried about is, if left untreated, such sexual tendencies could become a commonly accepted condition in society,” stated Indonesian Psychiatrists Association (PDSKJI) member Suzy Yusna Dewi.

The spokesperson went on to explain that, with intervention, these “conditions” can be cured. This statement will likely chill anyone familiar with the dangers of LGBT conversion therapy.

“We must respect Indonesian traditions,” she continued, “which culturally do not accept same-sex marriage, and we should not bow to the influence of foreign values that may not fit in with our values.”

The last comment reveals the probable motivations behind this crackdown. Internally, reports say that Indonesian religious leaders and conservative politicians have been exerting significant pressure for a new wave of government control on so-called moral issues. These include dissuading the public from being LGBT, as well as curbing prostitution and limiting the availability of drugs and alcohol.

Indonesia is technically a secular state, but the growing influence of Islamic religious policing has become a concern for international rights group.

The specific pressure on LGBT rights seems to have been spurred by gains in other nations, most notably in places where same-gender marriage has now been legalized, like the United States and Ireland. As a push back, religious and conservative lawmakers are trying to ensure that Indonesia’s LGBT community cannot ride that momentum.

LGBT rights groups within Indonesia have started to establish hotlines and to advise LGBTs on how they can stay safe — both online and otherwise. There is concern, though, that their work could soon be hampered.

Anti-LGBT forces are especially displeased that LGBT groups can access funds via United Nations programs that promote human rights initiatives. This money, critics say, enables activity that goes against Indonesia’s values. Other nations, namely Russia and Uganda, have cracked down on foreign and domestic NGOs, limiting LGBT support groups even further. It appears there may be a desire to do the same in Indonesia, though no official moves have been made.

A Thomson Reuters agency investigation has turned up multiple incidents of LGBT harassment, though an uptick in violence hasn’t been documented to date. The greater danger may be that Indonesian ministers are fueling the fire on anti-LGBT sentiment, while systematically cutting off any positive outlets for LGBT expression and identity. That means while anti-LGBT harassment may not yet be noticeably increasing, the conditions for institutionalized anti-LGBT discrimination and violence already exist.

This is an extremely concerning time for LGBT rights in Indonesia, especially since there has been talk of introducing a broader anti-homosexuality bill. Yet, the international response so far has been muted at best.

World governments must react, and swiftly, to reinforce to Indonesia through mechanisms like international aid that this crackdown is unacceptable. The lives and wellbeing of Indonesia’s LGBT community may depend on it.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

54 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W1 years ago

Thank you very much for sharing

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Roberto Meritoni
Past Member 1 years ago

THANKS

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Roberto Meritoni
Past Member 1 years ago

THANKS

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Louise D.
Louise D1 years ago

The cynicism of politicians and the use of an easy scapegoat with a combination of faux morality and a massive side order of hypocrisy. Of course theses laws tend to be unnecessary, clumsy pieces of legislation that are really there to to boost support for the government in conservative circles who prefer an authoritarian regime. If anything this will only be played out for a while until they realize that it is not good for business.

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Karen C.
Karen C1 years ago

Humans of all genders and sexual orientations should be respected everywhere

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Roberto M.
Past Member 1 years ago

THANKS

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Roberto M.
Past Member 1 years ago

THANKS

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 1 years ago

The so-called 'conversion therapy" is a joke! Only ignorant Republicans could come up with such a clueless notion. Thanks!

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Doris F.
Doris F1 years ago

noted

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