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Indonesia's Antigay Crackdown: 51 Arrests at Sauna

Indonesian arrests

It's part of a string of actions by police against LGBT Indonesians.

Police raided a sauna popular with gay men in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday night, arresting 51 people, according to Human Rights Watch.

Most of those arrested were released Saturday, but four men and a woman were detained and charged with violating the nation's antipornography law, HRW reports in a press release. The law prohibits sex parties, use of pornography, sex with animals or corpses, oral and anal sex, sex between men, and sex between women.

There have been several other raids targeting LGBT people in private spaces in Indonesia, this year, the group reports, even though the nation's leaders have spoken in support of LGBT citizens. In March vigilantes forced their way into an apartment and took two men to police, demanding that they be arrested for having gay sex; the men were later publicly flogged. In April there were 14 arrests at a private gathering of gay and bisexual men, and the arrestees were subjected to HIV tests without their consent.

In May came a raid at a spa in Jakarta, which saw 141 people arrested and 10 detained on charges of holding a sex party. In June police arrested five "suspected lesbians," ordered their parents to supervise them, and shared the women's names and a video of the raid with reporters. In September police evicted 12 women from their home village because they were believed to be lesbians.

In October of last year, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo spoke in support of LGBT Indonesians, saying police must stand up to bigoted groups and that "there should be no discrimination against anyone." Last month, Indonesia announced at the United Nations Human Rights Council that the government would "take further steps to ensure a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders," and implement rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, with all measures including LGBT people.

"But despite such promises from Indonesia's leaders, they have taken no action," the HRW press release concludes. "And it appears in such an environment of impunity for anti-LGBT abuses, the police have realized the vague and discriminatory pornography law can be used to target this already vulnerable minority."

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, has also banned gay-oriented social media apps and emojis, and one Muslim leader has called for revocation of licenses for Starbucks coffee shops because the company is pro-LGBT.

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