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Could Indonesia Be Facing an Antigay Crackdown?

Could Indonesia Be Facing an Antigay Crackdown?


The country is suddenly becoming less tolerant of LGBT people in academia or media.

Indonesia might be in beginnings of an antigay crackdown, suggests a story in TheNew York Times.

Maybe because of the absurdity of the request, or maybe because it's indicative of a larger problem, the most widespread headlines came when Indonesia's Communications Ministry recently told instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Line that they must scrap any emoticon inclusive of gays and lesbians.

The government faced criticism by Human Rights Watch for the emoticon ban and a recent string of antigay moves, many of which are also highlighted in the Times article.

"President Jokowi should urgently condemn anti-LGBT remarks by officials before such rhetoric opens the door to more abuses," said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. "The president has long championed pluralism and diversity. This is an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment."

The group sent a letter to the president warning of a "surge of anti-LGBT incidents" that includes students at the University of Lampung being told they will be expelled for LGBT activism and lecturers threatened with firing for academic work on LGBT issues. Muhammad Nasir Djamil, the country's minister overseeing higher education, had warned of the "serious" problem of LGBT discussion groups and academic studies, saying, "The LGBT community should not be allowed to grow or be given room to conduct its activities."

The Times's Jeffrey Hutton reports that the National Commission for Child Protection announced last week that it wants to ban LGBT content from television and radio. And it reports that "Islamic vigilantes" have been searching boarding houses for gays and lesbians.

In 2014, Aceh province approved Sharia Law requiring 100 lashes with a cane for gay sex. The law took effect last year and applies even to non-Muslims. Now the antigay attitude seems to be spreading to the rest of the country.

Although homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, the world's populous Muslim-majority country, the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, Zulkifli Hasan, said in January that it "should be banned because it does not fit with the culture of Indonesia."

The Times speculates that a surge of antigay animus could be the product of an election year.

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