What’s behind the Indonesian president’s troubling silence on LGBT persecution?

On March 15, 2016 The Conversation reported: An Indonesian lawmaker tweets lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people “should be put to death”.

Indonesia’s defence minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu, equates the country’s LGBT rights movement with “a form of proxy war” more dangerous than nuclear warfare.

The mayor of a major city warns that formula milk and instant noodles “make babies gay”.

These are some of the anti-gay statements made recently by public officials in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. The increasingly hateful rhetoric shows no sign of abating.

President Joko Widodo, who secured his election victory on a platform of promoting economic development and human rights, has yet to publicly speak out against these discriminatory statements.

Public officials against LGBT

Since January, numerous government officials have demeaned and threatened Indonesia’s LGBT population. Education officials have commented that gays and lesbians on campuses threaten Indonesian “values and standards of morality”. Government officials ordered police to halt an HIV-prevention outreach event for gay and bisexual men.

On February 11, information ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu requested social media platforms to remove any emojis “that smack of LGBT”. He said it was a gesture of respect for “religious values and norms”.

The Japan-based mobile chat application LINE acquiesced on February 12. Adding insult to injury, it apologised for failing to:

… filter culturally sensitive content.
That same day, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission banned TV and radio programs that portray LGBT lives as “normal”. Backed by the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, it argued the ban was to protect children and adolescents from materials that might encourage them to imitate or justify “LGBT behaviours”.

Even senior government ministers have joined the chorus. Vice President Jusuf Kalla on February 15 instructed the United Nations Development Program to cut funding to LGBT-rights education programs. Kalla gave no reason, but has previously declared that LGBT-related campaigns violated the country’s “social values”.

Indonesia’s co-ordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, has publicly spoken out about the need to respect the rights of LGBT people. But he qualified his support for LGBT rights by adding that he believed homosexuality was the result of a chromosomal condition that required “curing”.

That assertion follows the Indonesian Psychiatric Association classification of LGBT people as “persons with psychiatric problems”, despite the World Health Organisation having removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1990


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