At about 9pm on Sunday, four mini buses, the kind commonly used for public transport in Jakarta, slunk into the Ruko Kokan Permata Complex in Kelapa Gading, in the north of the city. The convoy then wound its way past the Playboy Sensation Funtasty massage parlour and trundled by the blacked out windows of the Delta Massage Health Club – both, in effect, brothels for “straight” men – before making two right turns. There, a dozen or so plain-clothes police officers jumped out of the buses and stormed the front entrance of the unassuming putty coloured building. Inside, a gay sex party, complete with strippers and about 140 naked men, was in full swing.
“I think they are deviant,” said Ade Dwi, a soft-spoken young contractor working across the street on a renovation project when the raid occurred. “I’m embarrassed I have to work near that place.”
“That place” is Atlantis Gym, a gay sauna in a working class residential district that is ground zero in the latest convulsion of homophobia to hit Indonesia. On Tuesday, its ultraconservative province of Aceh flexed its two-year-old sharia-based criminal code to claim the dubious honour of being host to Asia’s first public caning of gay men outside Iran.
Homophobia crested when the two men, in their early 20s, received 83 lashes of the cane for having gay sex. Footage showed hundreds roaring with approval as each of the men were beaten in front of a sea of smartphones recording the event. Seemingly spurred on by the attention given to the event, police in West Java, the country’s most populous province, announced a plan on Tuesday for a task force to investigate LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activity. Read more via This Week in Asia