Left far behind: The situation of LGBTI rights in Indonesia

By Yasmin Purba, Lawyer and Activist, Expert Member of Arus Pelangi (Rainbow Flow)

Although there is no law criminalising homosexuality or same-sex conduct at the national level, except in Aceh province, there are at least 15 discriminatory policies against LGBTI people in Indonesia.

The most severe form of punishment is found in Aceh, a province which has introduced its own Islamic laws, where same-sex sexual relationships are punishable by a sentence of caning (maximum of 100 strokes). In May 2017, two men were caned 83 times each.

indonesia caning
Caning of men in Aceh province of Indonesia 

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has played a large role in shaping public opinion and increasing abuse against the LGBTI community, particularly in the last two years. Between January to August 2016 alone, there were 162 abuses of hate speech, forced evictions, dismissal of public events, and assaults against the LGBTI community across various regions.

This number is unprecedented and many of the attacks were incited by extremist Muslim groups. Furthermore, a group of conservative academics and parents’ associations called the AILA (literally ‘The Family Love Alliance’) have been actively campaigning against LGBTI rights.

They have filed a petition at the Constitutional Court pleading the Court to include the criminalisation of homosexuality in the penal code. Simultaneously, representatives from Islamic parties in Parliament are pushing for the inclusion of ‘casual’ sex, including same-sex acts, under punishable acts in the revision of the Penal Code.

Law enforcement in Indonesia has failed to provide adequate protection for LGBTI people, which makes impunity a common practice when it comes to anti-LGBTI violence. Police have taken active roles in cracking down on the LGBTI community: the most recent proof of police-led discriminatory treatment is the police raid on a gym and spa venue in Jakarta, where 141 men were stripped naked and arrested under pornography laws.

Discrimination and violence further marginalise Indonesian LGBTI people into a vulnerable position and poverty. Surveys by Arus Pelangi (‘Rainbow Flow’), the Indonesian Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, and Intersexual Communities, reveal that 89.3% of Indonesian LGBTI people have experienced violence, while more than 50% live below the national poverty line. Despite being a State Party to almost all key international human rights treaties, the rights of LGBTI people in Indonesia are still far from protected.

This article was originally published on the Study at SOAS blog as a run-up to the ‘Queer’ Asia Conference 2017. 

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