EVA THIO WRITES – Indonesian lawmakers have started to ban LGBT activates, and police have raided popular spas, arresting hundreds of people in the process.
In lockstep, the government is considering banning LGBT-related television programming in an effort to head off what one politician says could become a wave of poor lifestyle choices by the country’s youth. The ban would require all TV programs, commercials and documentaries be screened for content.
There is precedent: In 2009, comedian Kabul Basuki was permanently banned from the airwaves after dressing and behaving as a woman in a sketch. And last year KPI, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, banned male actors from behaving and dressing as women or acting overly effeminate on air.
Officially, homosexuality is not considered a crime in Indonesia. But some provinces operate essentially under Sharia law. In Aceh, for example, gay men have been publically caned for alleged homosexual activity.
The violent punishment has attracted international attention. The news has been brought to a Human Rights researcher’s attention who stated that there is no law against homosexuality as long as relationships are consensual.
Historically, accepting and adapting to modern concepts and ideologies has been difficult for Indonesia. An example of this can be seen in the movie industry where some movies’ romance or homosexual scenes are cut out.
Anton Charliyan, the Police Chief of West Java Province, stated that they set up an anti-gay task forces to track down and raid gay events. However, earlier in 2016, the response from President Jokowi was different. The President insisted that “The police must act against actions by groups or individuals to harm LGBT people or deny them their rights. There should be no discrimination against anyone.” This conflict within the governing bodies has spread confusion over the official message on LGBT rights from Indonesia.
With the announcement of legalizing gay marriage in Taiwan earlier this year, it is clear that the rest of Asia is not yet caught up with modern notions of LGBT equality. With no government agency taking action to dial back the anti-LGBT movements in Indonesia, LGBT equality in the country seems to be moving backwards rather than forward.