Indonesian government crackdown on LGBT community

Indonesian government crackdown on LGBT community
Indonesian flag. Photo: Kaufdex, Pixabay

So far 2018 is set to be a time of hardship and repression for the gay and transgender people living in Indonesia.

In Aceh, a highly conservative province, hair salons have been raided by police who publically shamed many transgender hairdressers. Meanwhile in Indonesia’s capital, the government is finalising new laws that would criminalise gay sex.

It is also suspected that the new laws will make it illegal for straight couples to have sex outside of marriage.

The North Aceh police chief, Untung Sangaji, delivered a passionate speech over the weekend regarding the latest crackdown on the LGBT community. He said that Indonesia’s religious leaders “don’t want this disease spreading here” with the crowd applauding in agreement.

Sangaji is an Indonesian hero for his actions in stopping a terrorist attack in 2016. In Jakarta, Sangaji ran towards the terrorist group firing his gun.

Instead of terrorists, Sangaji now faces what he considers to be a growing threat from the LGBT community. He said it would be “inhumane” of him to allow the increase of “sissies” in Indonesia.

Leading weekend raids on known LGBT run hair salons, Sangaji and his men arrested 12 trans people. Labelled as ‘waria’ in Indonesia, these detainees had their heads shaved, were forced to dress in male clothing and are now set to endure a process of “re-education”.

As hairdressing was one of the few jobs available to trans people in Indonesia, this raid is a very clear attack on the livelihoods of LGBT people. The police have since sealed the raided hair salons indefinitely.

For many this series of raids marks the new low point in a 2 year long authoritarian crackdown on Indonesia’s LGBT community. Vitriolic speeches from politicians and religious leaders have made very clear that Indonesia’s conservative culture is not going to tolerate what it sees as divergent lifestyles.

All of Indonesia’s 10 major political groups have agreed on new legislation that would make it much easier for police to prosecute individuals on charges of homosexual sex as well as unmarried sex. The secretary general of the PPP party, Arsul Sani, said that homosexual sex would be a “forbidden act” under the new laws.

Politicians supporting the legislation have said the new laws won’t mean that police will be knocking down doors looking for culprits. They have instead said that the police will only act on reports from aggrieved parties.

The new criminal code will also make it illegal for people to support the use of birth control, insult religious leaders or talk about communism.  Critics have said these laws are impractical for Indonesian authorities to enforce as millions would likely be found guilty of them.