Indonesia: Criminalizing Indonesia’s LGBT People Won’t Protect Them

It may seem preposterous, but some Indonesian politicians are attempting to portray the criminalization of adult consensual same-sex conduct as somehow protecting against vigilantism. Make same-sex behavior a crime, they say, and conservative elements will be placated, avoiding violent outbursts. If there is an official route to report and prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, the logic goes, members of the public won’t resort to attacks.

The argument has a certain appeal amid Indonesia’s intensifying moral panic about sexuality, but the substance makes no sense whatsoever –especially considering Indonesia’s unrelenting government-driven campaign of vitriolic rhetoric against LGBT activism and people . But while politicians spin their current decision-making as horse trading and political compromise, their policy proposals echo the deeply problematic historical relationship between Indonesia’s laws and vigilante attacks on minorities – and portend a violent future.

In late January, Zulkifli Hasan, speaker of Indonesia’s parliament, who had been one of the first public figures to launch an anti-LGBT diatribe in 2016, told reporters that there were parliamentarians discussing same-sex marriage – a triggering issue in Indonesian political discourse.  In 2017 social media erupted with calls to boycott Starbucks, for example, because the coffee company’s CEO had four years earlier declared his support for marriage equality. Hasan’s statement that legislators were discussing same-sex marriage was not true, but in Jakarta’s political chess match, it effectively cornered all players into publicly affirming their support for some degree of opposition to gay equality. Read more via HRW