There was a commotion and then there was silence. Many of the guests had gathered around a small stage on which the dancers, and Ezra, were naked. Everyone froze and turned to look at four men wearing fixed, steely gazes.
“This doesn’t feel right,” Ezra recalls thinking. “If they are gay, they are not going to look at us in that way.” Then dozens of policemen stormed the premises.
It was the biggest police raid on a private gay establishment in Indonesia in recent memory. That day, in May 2017, 141 men were arrested at the Atlantis sauna in north Jakarta. It was only after bare-chested images of those who had been detained appeared on the news, along with some of their names, that Ezra’s family became aware he was among them.
Ezra himself was less worried about going to jail than he was about his mother finding out he was gay. “When my mum first visited me she actually had tears in her eyes but she tried to contain it,” he recalls. Ezra was convicted two months later, together with one other guest, four dancers and four staff from the sauna, under a 2008 pornography law. During the trial, head judge Pinta Uli Boru Tarigan made her opinion clear. “If you were stealing you can still atone and go to heaven. But this one, this is morally wrong,” she said, according to Ezra. Read more via SCMP