Does the LGBT community now have an ally in Mahfud MD, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs?
The senior minister recently gave a statement about how the rule of law applies to the marginalized community – and it's a statement that may bring a minuscule sliver of hope for LGBT rights in Indonesia.
Mahfud made the remark while attending the national working meeting of the Alumni Corps of the Islamic Students Association (KAHMI) in Puncak, Bogor, West Java on Saturday. During the event, he was asked for his opinion on the LGBT issue, which has once again been thrust into the spotlight – this time courtesy of Coldplay.
"LGBT is natural and can't be banned," Mahfud said. He added that people should only prohibit LGBT behavior, not the existence of LGBT people.
Mahfud specifically touched on the controversial Revised Criminal Code (RKUHP), set to be enforced by 2026, which activists fear would be used as a tool to further prosecute LGBT people in the country.
"LGBT people are created by God. Therefore they can't be banned. God made them live as homosexuals, lesbians, but their behavior that is directed to other people is what can't be allowed," the minister continued.
He also stressed that where sexuality is concerned, the RKUHP will not discriminate in its enforcement of the law, particularly on sexual crimes.
Dede Oetomo, who founded the country's oldest LGBT rights group GAYa NUSANTARA, told Coconuts Jakarta that Mahfud's statement represents progressive thinking in the context of human rights.
However, he's not entirely optimistic that the RKUHP won't be used to criminalize LGBT people.
"In the new criminal code, something that carries potential threat is Article 2 on Living Law. This can be used to persecute LGBT+ people. It's such a vague article," he said.
Living law or customary law is a concept that recognizes the existence and validity of local norms and values that regulate the social life of certain communities in Indonesia. Its ambiguous nature in the RKUHP can pave the way for the passage of regional by-laws that discriminate against minority groups.
At any rate, Mahfud has been panned by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) – the highest clerical body in the nation – over his statement.
"I was utterly shocked by Mahfud MD's statement that 'LGBT is natural and can't be banned.' I find myself asking what Mahfud MD meant by using the word 'natural,'" MUI Deputy Chairman Anwar Abbas wrote in a statement yesterday, before citing religious dogma that exclusively supports heterosexuality.
Mahfud MD has not made a follow up statement since.