The Indonesian Constitutional Court rejected a petition to make gay sex illegal. But the gay community remains an easy target for Indonesian politicians.
By Oliver Ward
Indonesia’s downtrodden lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community scored a narrow victory in the Indonesian Constitutional Court. The court rejected a petition from conservative group Family Alliance to make gay sex and extramarital sex illegal.
The nine judges voted five to four against the petition. They decided that the proposal exceeded the court’s mandate. It would require the creation of new laws which lies in the mandate of the Indonesian Parliament.
A wave of hostility plagues the Indonesian LGBT community
Several people took to Twitter to celebrate the decision using the hashtag #lovewins.
However, the celebrations in the LGBT community were somewhat muted. Next year the Indonesian Parliament will consider amending the nation’s criminal code. The proposed amendments currently include a law which will make homosexuality illegal in the Muslim-majority nation.
The proposed law is part of a wider wave of hostility directed towards the LGBT community. On 18th December, the Indonesian courts jailed ten men for their involvement in a sauna sex party in May. Among the men were two visitors to the club, as well as strippers, and employees from the venue.
The courts are convicting gay men under anti-porn laws
The 2008 anti-porn law prohibits “perverse intercourse”. The courts are using this ambiguous and vague clause to put gay men behind bars. Homosexuality is not currently a crime in Indonesia. Law enforcement is increasingly using obscure laws to prosecute those involved in homosexual acts.
Tom Boellstorff, an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, said, “things are worse now than they have ever been in Indonesian history” for gay people. Gay rights activist Yulita Rustinawati agreed. He said, “It’s been increasing for two years now”, adding, “we are not sure what the government is trying to achieve. We are queer, and we are not going away.”
93% of the Indonesian public believe that homosexuality should be rejected. With the population against them, Indonesian homosexuals have to worry about the general public as well as law enforcement. A recent report by Front Line Defenders described how 23 out of the 25 gay rights activists interviewed for the report had received death threats within the last two years.
The Indonesian government is failing the LGBT population
The Indonesian government is exacerbating the situation and reinforcing this negative public view. Several politicians have implemented anti-gay policies in an attempt to garner popularity from hard-line Islamist groups in the country
In January 2016, Research and Higher Education Minister Muhammed Nasir banned an LGBT student group from the University of Indonesia campus. The broadcast regulator also banned “effeminate” looking men from the nation’s television networks. The country’s Defence Minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu even compared the LGBT movement to a nuclear war. He said, “it’s dangerous as we can’t see who our foes are”, labelling the LGBT movement as “brainwashing”.
Appealing to hard-line Islamist voters remains a way for Indonesian politicians to rally support. Until this changes, the gay community will continue to be a scapegoat for the political elite. Indonesian President Joko Widodo attempted to speak up for the rights of the LGBT community in 2016. But even he could not pursue the issue too much out of fear of losing conservative Islamic voters.
Ryamizard Ryacudu did get something right. In his tirade against the LGBT movement, he said, “this sort of brainwashing is dangerous, as it skews the mindset of our nation away from our base ideology”. Except it is not the LGBT movement skewing the mindset of the nation, it is the shameful politicians persecuting an already marginalised community for political gain.