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Indybay Feature
Related Categories: LGBTI / Queer
Indonesian Atrocities against Gays
by Can we get a protest going?
Monday Feb 29th, 2016 8:38 PM
FYI: Indonesian Consulate General in San Francisco
1111 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA
United States
TELEPHONE: (415) 474.9571
FAX: (415) 441-4320
HEAD OF MISSION: Mr Asianto Sinambela, Consul General
A few short weeks in Indonesia has seen a former communications minister make a call for the public to kill any gay people they find and the leading psychiatric body describe transgenderism as a mental disorder. BBC Indonesian's Rebecca Henschke and Ging Ginanjar went to find out about the insecurity of life on the receiving end of such threats and hostility.
The swiftness and intensity of the attacks against Indonesia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has taken its members by surprise.
A hair salon run by transgenders in Jakarta is one place to get a sense of what it has been like. For Anggun, 23, who works there, it was enough of a struggle to accept who she really was. She is trying to stay safe by not attracting attention to herself.
"We don't know why smart people are suddenly saying things like 'homosexuality is a virus that can spread'. Even uneducated people know that's not true," she says.
Not every transgender in Indonesia has the chance to lead a legitimate life and career. As it is many are forced into sex work and already face violence.
Homosexuality and gay sex are not illegal in Indonesia, and the world's largest Muslim country has a vibrant transgender culture and tradition, which broadly meets with tolerance from the Indonesian public.
But something has happened in recent weeks and it is difficult to identify why it has snowballed.
On the main street of Indonesian university town Yogyakarta last week 100 men could be found standing carrying signs that read "LGBT is a disease". Just a few hundred metres away a group of rights activists battled it out with the police: "Stop attacks on democracy and threats against minorities!"
It came after the minister of research, technology and higher education, Muhammad Nasir, heard some LGBT support groups were offering counselling services at one of Indonesia's leading universities and declared they were corrupting the country's youth. The conservative media and the country's active social media users joined in the attacks.
There followed a wave of critical statements from senior members of Indonesia's government.
One of the most extreme views came from Defence Minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu who described the movement for gay rights in Indonesia as a form of a modern warfare - an attempt by Western nations to undermine the country's sovereignty. Then former communications minister Tifatul Sembiring made a call on Twitter, where he has more than one million followers, for the public to kill any gay people that they find.
Even Indonesia's Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, called for funding to be cut to a United Nations programme that focuses on ending stigma, discrimination and violence towards LGBT people.
"What is most worrying is that they want to fight for equal marriage rights," he said.