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Despite being a popular destination for gay and bisexual honeymooners, Indonesia has recently become a hotbed of anti-LGBTQ persecution for its citizens and tourists alike. Most recently, a police chief in the Indonesian region of West Java announced a new police taskforce targeting LGBTQ citizens.
On Tuesday, West Java police chief Anton Charliyan said that LGBT people suffered a “disease of the body and soul,” and said that his new anti-LGBT taskforce would include intelligence specialists focused on disrupting “secret parties.”
His comments are particularly troubling considering that police in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta recently raided a gay sauna, arresting and publicly outing 141 men by publishing their nude photos, names and addresses on social media. The police claimed this happened because of “procedural errors.”
“I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition,” Charliyan said. “If there’s anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society.“
Charliyan’s comments outraged local LGBTQ activists because same-sex intercourse is actually legal in Indonesia (with the exception of being illegal in the conservative Aceh region where a gay couple recently received a public caning). You can see a video of the caning.
Yuli Rustinawati, a chairperson of the Indonesian LGBT group Arus Pelangi, said, “Police have a mandate to follow the law. They are not the morals police.”
Last year, Arus Pelangi set up a safehouse in Jakarta for queer Indonesians escaping persecution, but their efforts suffered from a lack of funding and zero governmental support.
Despite the legality of homosexuality in Indonesia, the country is largely ruled by conservative Muslims. Approximately 93 percent of Indonesians oppose homosexuality; the Indonesian Psychiatrists Association classifies LGBTQ identity as a mental disorder; the country’s ministers consider LGBTQ people a security risk and have started passing laws forbidding businesses from hiring LGBTQ people and forcing LGBTQ people into so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy.
A study earlier this year concluded that anti-LGBTQ discrimination costs Indonesia up to $12 billion annually from lost revenue and productivity.
(Featured image by Ngarto Februana via iStock Photography)