Human Rights Watch: Gay rights under attack in Indonesia

Sexual minorities are under attack in Indonesia, and President Joko Widodo's silence has raised questions about his stated commitment to diversity, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

Anti-gay sentiment in the mainly Muslim country rose earlier this year after Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir banned university groups advocating for lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and trans-genders (LGBT).

Since then, officials and conservative religious groups have made statements denouncing pro-LGBT activities.

In February, police cracked down on a pro-LGBT protest in the central Java city of Yogyakarta while ignoring violent rhetoric by hardline Muslims there, New York-based Human Rights Watch said. 

"The discriminatory actions of Indonesian officials and institutions have laid bare the depth and breadth of the government's prejudice," said Kyle Knight, an LGBT-rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The Constitutional Court is considering a case filed by a group of conservative academics seeking to criminalize consensual gay sex among adults, with penalties of up to five years in prison.

No verdict has been passed on the case.

Joko has remained mostly silent, Knight said, even though anti-LGBT "vitriol" from some officials was not in line with Joko's campaign pledges to promote tolerance, pluralism and dialogue.

"At a time when LGBT Indonesians needed protection and public support, Jokowi's government has cowered in the face of militant Islamists," said Knight, using the president's nickname.

A 25-year-old gay man told Human Rights Watch that he felt he had been treated "like a dog."

"I don't feel safe with seeing all the 'end LGBT' statements on social media," he was quoted as saying.

The US was monitoring reports of "possible measures in Indonesia that would restrict the freedom of expression for LGBTI individuals in principle and in practice," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

She said the US would always "strive to protect and advance the universal rights of all people, including LGBTI individuals, to express themselves both online and offline."

"We encourage Indonesia, which rightly prides itself on diversity and tolerance, to respect and uphold international rights and standards by ensuring equal rights and protections for all of its citizens," Trudeau said.

Last update: Thu, 11/08/2016 - 22:56
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