Is a Gay Sex Ban Looming?
This was the headline on a CNN web page on February 26 this year.
For more than two years, a crackdown on gay activity and the LGBT community in general has been going on in Indonesia with members of Parliament at the forefront. In February 2016 the Defence Minister set the ball rolling by launching a scathing attack, stating that LGBT rights are “more dangerous than nuclear war.”
Early last year the Mental Health Director at the Ministry of Health then proclaimed that LGBT people have “mental disorders”. Soon there began a series of mass anti-LGBT protests by religious conservatives. That was followed by a much-publicized raid on a gay sauna in Jakarta when 141 men were arrested under pornography laws. Last December the country’s Constitutional Court narrowly rejected an application by a Muslim group to criminalize same-sex relations.
Now though, the anti-LGBT movement continues its forward march. According to CNN, “Within weeks lawmakers could vote on a new law that looks set to criminalize sex outside of marriage and homosexual sex in Indonesia, as part of wide-reaching changes to the country’s criminal code.”
It seems no coincidence that the present crackdown is taking place at a time when national elections are due to start. “Indonesian politicians are scared to oppose conservative Muslim groups,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono said.
“Many Islamist leaders are going to put pressure on every politician (to pass the criminal code)… Many politicians in a conservative country like Indonesia will think twice before standing up for an LGBT individual,” he added.
It has long been known that under Sharia Law in the westerly Aceh Province, gay men can be whipped, as happened to two young men last year in front of a large crowd. It was all eerily reminiscent of a scene from a Mediaeval Morality play with those doing the beating covered from head to toe. The punishment is up to 100 lashes.
There is still no news about the passing of an anti-LGBT law. It this does go ahead nationwide, the effect on tourism in the popular gay holiday destination of Bali will surely be very significant.
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