Jakarta – Rights groups have cancelled a Southeast Asian LGBT event in Indonesia after receiving security threats, the organisers said, the latest sign of increasing pressure on the community from religious conservatives in the country.
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, even though it is not illegal except in the sharia-ruled Aceh province.
Other LGBT-related events have also been cancelled in Indonesia due to objections from Islamic groups. In December, the United States called off a visit by its LGBT special envoy after an influential clerical body denounced the visit.
Jakarta was set to host the 'ASEAN Queer Advocacy Week' from July 17, bringing together activists from across Southeast Asia to discuss advocacy and navigating challenges. It was jointly organised by Philippines-based rights group ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Indonesia-based Arus Pelangi and other activists.
But ASEAN SOGIE Caucus said they have now moved the event outside Indonesia "to ensure the safety and security of both the participants and the organiser".
"The organizers of the ASEAN Queer Advocacy Week decided to relocate the venue of the programme outside Indonesia, after receiving a series of security threats from various groups," ASEAN SOGIE Caucus said in a statement late on Tuesday.
It also cited a wave of "anti-LGBT sentiments" on social media. The organisers did not disclose the new venue due to security concerns.
The event has also drawn attention as Indonesia hosts a regional meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers this week, raising questions from some anti-LGBT groups on whether the event was linked to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathering.
Indonesia's foreign ministry said the event had "nothing to do" with the regional bloc.
The LGBT event was condemned online and by Islamic groups.
"The government must not give a permit to an event that contradicts the values of religions in Indonesia," said Anwar Abbas of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the powerful Islamic clerical body.
"Thus, we warn and urge the government not to give permit on the event."Reporting by Ananda Teresia in Jakarta and Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by A. Ananthalakshmi and Raju Gopalakrishnan