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LGBT Indonesians on edge as police, military highlight 'risks' of alternative sexual orientations

ABC News - August 5, 2019

Max Walden – Indonesia's national police and military have publicly warned about the "risks" of being LGBT, in officials' latest verbal attack against the minority group in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

As part of a comic series mainly about self-help, ethics and patriotism, the Indonesian military posted on its public relations Twitter account a now-deleted comic outlining the perceived "risks" of being LGBT, including the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The ABC contacted Twitter for clarification as to whether it removed the tweet for violating its user guidelines, however had not received a response at the time of publication.

The comic sparked debate online, with "LGBT" trending on Twitter over the weekend in Indonesia – a country where there are about 25 million active accounts.

National police spokesman Asep Adi Saputra, meanwhile, told a press conference in Jakarta on Saturday that being LGBT was an "emergency" and a "disease" which the community needed to work to prevent, likening it to the grooming of children by paedophiles.

"The way we can protect our kids from becoming victims of child groomers or from becoming LGBT sufferers is by instilling faith and devotion in children from an early age," local news outlet Tirto quoted him as saying.

State-sanctioned homophobia has become commonplace in Indonesia in recent years, amid what many observers say is a rapid rise in religious conservatism.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo recently told CNN in an interview Muslims in Indonesia practised a "a tolerant and moderate Islam"."Islam in Indonesia is modern, it is forward thinking," he said.

However rights groups criticised Mr Widodo during his re-election campaign for selecting conservative Muslim scholar Ma'ruf Amin – who has previously argued that homosexuality should be criminalised – as his Vice-President.

Phelim Kine, director of research at Physicians for Human Rights, said Mr Widodo's comments about tolerance were "delusional" given Indonesia was a "nightmare for religious minorities and LGBT people".

LGBT Indonesians seen as 'a new enemy'

Earlier this year, comic artist @Alpantuni caused controversy by depicting the struggles of gay Muslims in Indonesia.

Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in 2016 said calls for LGBT rights constituted a "proxy war" against Indonesia, posing a greater threat to national security than nuclear weapons.

Mr Widodo himself then said there was "no room" for the LGBT movement in Indonesia.

Other senior figures, including then-chief of the military Gatot Nurmantyo, also argued the LGBT movement was part of a ploy by foreign powers to control Indonesia.

"Since 2016, the Indonesian Military has had an agenda of anti-LGBT propaganda," Naila Riski Zakia, a Jakarta-based lawyer, told the ABC. "They want people to believe that Indonesia is facing a new enemy."

According to Lini Zurlia, a campaigner with the LGBT advocate group ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, "these latest comments are intended to divert attention and public scrutiny away from politicking in the formation of Jokowi-Ma'ruf's Cabinet."

Analysts have speculated that high-profile raids on gay spas and private homes in Jakarta in 2016 and 2017 were conducted to demonstrate police were "even-handedly" applying the law, whilst simultaneously investigating prominent firebrand preacher Rizieq Shihab under Indonesia's strict anti-pornography laws.

Mr Shihab is the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a hard-line group known for vigilantism, which rose to prominence with its campaign to oust then-Christian-Chinese governor of Jakarta, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Police raids were sometimes conducted alongside members of the FPI which initially reported the alleged gay sex parties.

The semi-autonomous province of Aceh, which implements a strict interpretation of sharia law, is currently the only part of Indonesia where homosexuality is criminalised.

Other local governments across the country have increasingly introduced discriminatory bylaws targeting LGBT people, however.

Indonesia's Constitutional Court rejected a petition to criminalise extramarital sex including same-sex relations in 2017.

But proposed changes to the Indonesian criminal code still being debated by Parliament could potentially outlaw being gay during Mr Widodo's second term.

"The Jokowi regime is not serious in handling human rights issues," Ms Zakia said. Ms Zurlia said that LGBT groups were "already preparing for the worst."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-05/indonesia-lgbt-community-targeted-by-police-military/11383616