Indonesia’s Terrifying Crackdown on LGBT People Continues

Over the past month, stories from Indonesia detailing anti-trans abuse, arrests and a legislative ban on same-gender relationships have emerged as part of a disturbing pattern.

Human Rights Watch offers the latest on an incident involved twelve trans women:

Indonesian police and Sharia (Islamic law) police jointly raided five hair salons owned by transgender women in Aceh province on Saturday. They arrested 12 waria, or trans women, forced them to strip off their shirts, and cut their hair in public. The waria remain detained as of Tuesday morning in Aceh.

Immediately following the raids, North Aceh Police Chief Untung Sangaji addressed a crowd that had gathered. “Our ulama [Muslim scholars] disagree with this disease. [This disease] is spreading,” he said, according to a phone recording posted to YouTube. “It’s inhumane if Untung Sangaji is to tolerate these sissy garbage.”

According to CNN, this human rights abuse is said to be part of a larger campaign to supposedly prevent LGBT people from affecting young people. It’s worth pointing out that while Muslim scholars are far more divided on the issue of transgender inclusion than the above statements imply, this neo-traditionalist reading of Islam’s sacred texts has been on the rise in Indonesia for some time.

Human Rights Watch is calling for the immediate release of the 12 trans women and an investigation into the abuses they have suffered at the hands of law enforcement. To understand the country’s LGBT crackdown, though, it’s worth taking a look back over the past few years.

Indonesia’s escalating LGBT crackdown

Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that has adopted Sharia law in a formal way, maintains a well-documented reputation for hostility toward LGBT people.

But all across Indonesia, there has been a marked turn toward religious conservatism. Police raids, vigilantism and open and violent discrimination against LGBT people — or even those just suspected of being LGBT — has become rife.

Last year, two men were seized and caned for being gay, while police raids against suspected “gay parties” resulted in the images of suspected gay individuals being circulated online. In another development, West Java authorities floated the idea of a special “task force” to crack down on LGBT people. It’s estimated that over 300 people in Indonesia were arrested for being LGBT last year, but the true figure may be far greater.

And, unfortunately, there are signs that things may become even worse.

Indonesia’s new criminal code could make being LGBT illegal

Under Indonesia’s current laws, homosexuality is technically legal. That’s because Indonesia’s laws have specifically enshrined secular values. However, over the past few years, both Indonesian lawmakers and President Joko Widodo, have increasingly given ground to religious hardliners.

And the latest step is a bill currently before Indonesia’s House of Representatives that would, among other things, change several definitions in the criminal code to make consensual relationships between unmarried people illegal. While this legislation doesn’t specifically make homosexuality illegal, it would automatically ban same-gender relationships.

These changes to the criminal code have been heavily criticized by legal experts for being ill-defined and open to serious abuse. A similar petition brought before the courts by a religious conservative Islamic group was rejected in December of last year by Indonesia’s Constitutional Court. Even so, all ten parties in the House of Representatives have supported the legislative changes.

Indonesia’s lawmakers seem intent on passing a bill that will almost certainly impose additional religious laws on the general public and be used to silence and abuse Indonesia’s besieged LGBT community.

Take Action!

Sign this Care petition and join over 70,000 civil rights advocates in calling on Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to stop this senseless crackdown.

Photo Credit: Seika/Flickr

53 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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DAVID f
Past Member 9 months ago

Noted

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Peggy B
Peggy B10 months ago

So wrong.

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Horrible. Thanks

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Angela J
Angela J10 months ago

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo C10 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda McConnell10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda McConnell10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Joan E
Joan E10 months ago

As the world is falling apart, we need to save each other, not beat up those who need help.

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Angela J
Angela J10 months ago

Thanks

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