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Indonesia Is Trying to Screen Out Queer Teachers


The nation's international schools are quizzing teachers from overseas on such topics as their preferred "gender composition of an orgy." 

Foreigners who teach in some Indonesian schools are being asked questions aimed at determining if they're LGBTQ, with queries including such as their preferred "gender composition of an orgy."

The schools have begun posing these questions to teachers and teacher candidates in the past few weeks, The New York Times reports. They are billed as being part of a psychological exam and are allowed "under a 2015 government regulation that prohibits international schools from hiring foreign teachers who have 'an indication of abnormal sexual behavior or orientation,'" according to the Times.

"For foreign teachers, if the psychologist declares that a candidate has a deviant sexual orientation, certainly the school will not hire that person," Waadarrahman, an official with the Ministry of Education and Culture, told the paper. (She uses a single name, as do many Indonesians.)

A sample of the questions: Teachers and applicants are asked if they agree or disagree with such statements as "A sexual education curriculum should include all sexual orientations," "Celebrations such as gay pride day are ridiculous because they assume an individual's sexual orientation should constitute a source of pride," and "The gender composition of an orgy would be irrelevant to my decision to participate." Some are more personal -- for instance, asking respondents if they agree or disagree that "I wouldn't want to die without having experimented sexually with both men and women" or "I can be sexually attracted to anyone in the right circumstances."

Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, does not criminalize homosexuality nationwide, but its autonomous province of Aceh does. Aceh operates under the Muslim religious code sometimes called Sharia law (although some scholars and actvists say that punishing LGBTQ people is not actually consistent with Sharia law). Some cities outside the province, such as Pariaman (pictured) in West Sumatra also criminalize homosexuality.

Indonesia was once among the most LGBTQ-accepting countries in the Islamic world, but that has changed in recent years. The newly elected vice president, Ma'ruf Amin, supports criminalization of LGBTQ people. This fall, Parliament narrowly voted down a bill that would ban all sex outside of marriage -- and Indonesia does not allow same-sex marriage. The legislation is likely to come up again.

The schools regulation was adopted after the arrest in 2014 of a Canadian teacher and six Indonesian colleagues on charges of sexually abusing students at the Jakarta International School. "All seven were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms on the basis of preposterous evidence, including that the Canadian, Neil Bantleman, used magical powers to seduce the children and render the crime scenes invisible," the Times reports. Bantleman was released this year after having served five years, as the Indonesian government granted him clemency.

The regulation applies to 168 schools that offer an international curriculum; such schools draw students from affluent families. However, it is not consistently enforced. Schools are required to offer the exam when a teacher is hired and every six years after that, but each school determines what questions will be on the test and hires its own psychologist to administer it.

"The recent wave of testing has alarmed some foreign teachers," the Times reports, but many are afraid to speak out against it. Human rights groups spoke out, though, with Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, pointing out that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is "against Indonesia's constitution and against Indonesia's obligations under international human rights law."

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