Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown Intensifies, With Public Caning and Massive Arrests

Indonesian officials have recently arrested — and publicly caned — two men in Aceh for having a sexual relationship, in addition to arresting over a hundred men in Jakarta after a raid on a sauna. But why are Indonesian officials targeting the LGBT community?

Recently Care2 reported on a vigilante group’s raid on two unarmed men. The individuals, who were held until officials arrived and took them into custody, were subsequently charged for engaging in a sexual relationship and sentenced to a public flogging.

On May 23, the men were caned 83 times in a public space. The original sentence specified 85 strokes of the cane, but — in an apparent attempt at leniency — the punishment was reduced by two strokes because the men had been detained for two months.

The BBC reports that the men, wearing white gowns, were led onto a stage erected outside of a local mosque. They were then flogged by a team of hooded men.

Amnesty International has called the act a “flagrant violation” of human rights standards, with a statement from Josef Benedict, Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, stating:

This sickening spectacle, carried out in front of more than a thousand jeering spectators, is an act of utmost cruelty. These two men had their privacy forcefully invaded when they were ambushed inside their own home, and their ‘punishment’ today was designed to humiliate as well as physically injure them.

The authorities in Aceh and Indonesia must immediately repeal the law which imposes these punishments, which constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture. [...] The international community must put pressure on Indonesia to create a safer environment for the LGBTI community before the situation deteriorates further. Nobody should be punished for consensual sex.

Aceh’s spiral into strident Sharia rule has been well-documented, but there are signs that conditions are worsening in many other parts of Indonesia, too.

Just this past week, reports emerged that 141 men were arrested at what police described as a “gay party” inside a sauna building in Jakarta. The exact nature of the gathering hasn’t been established, but the men were detained for violating Indonesia’s anti-pornography laws.

Private consensual homosexual acts are not illegal in Indonesia, but social taboo keeps most LGBT people closeted for their own protection. These recent arrests show the troubling breadth of the country’s anti-pornography laws and serve as a testament to the government’s broad powers to detain and regulate.

In late April, a police raid specifically targeting gay men took place in Surabaya. Ultimately, eight people were charged, two of whom could face up to 15 years in prison.

Local activists fear that the Indonesian government aims to use tools like anti-pornography legislation to prove that it is just as capable of enforcing moral standards as religious groups. And LGBT people are the ones suffering as a result.

For example, the New York Times points out that the timing of this latest raid may be related to Ramadan:

After the arrests in Jakarta on Sunday night, the police released to local news organizations numerous photographs of shirtless men who had been detained, alarming rights activists who said friends and families of the men may not have been aware of their sexual orientation.

[...]

Jakarta’s government recently announced that most bars and nightclubs in the city would be closed during Ramadan, a departure from last year, when they were generally allowed to stay open. Over the last few weeks, the police destroyed 16,000 bottles of alcohol being sold by unlicensed vendors in pre-Ramadan raids, according to the local news media.

“There’s a shift in the atmosphere of religiosity in Indonesia,” Mr. Basuki, the analyst, said.

If these concerns prove accurate, Indonesia’s LGBT community could be on the brink of even more human rights violations.

So what now? How do we protect Indonesia’s LGBT community?

International governments must speak out against these extrajudicial detentions and hold Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo accountable.

Widodo has previously stated that no LGBT person should face discrimination, but that is precisely what is happening across Indonesia. Unless he acts — and swiftly — there will be more discrimination and violence perpetrated against the LGBT community.

Photo Credit: Jaka Santana/Flickr

65 comments

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Jack Y12 days ago

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Jack Y
Jack Y12 days ago

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John J
John J12 days ago

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John J
John J12 days ago

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Jerome S2 months ago

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Jerome S2 months ago

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 months ago

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Jim Ven2 months ago

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Marie W6 months ago

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo R8 months ago

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