Recently, we reported on the first transgender mosque in Indonesia, a glimmer of hope in a country where it’s generally not easy to be trans, as evidenced by a survey conducted in 2013 by Arus Pelangi, an Indonesian LGBTQ rights organization showing that over 89% of the people with a different gender or sexual orientation have been victims of “psychological, physical, sexual, economic and cultural abuse”. In the mean time this mosque was closed by the goverment under pressure of the Yogyakarta Islamic Jihadi Front (FJI), citing “public order” issues following pressure from local fundamentalists.
It’s not just radical islamists causing this sudden uproar, but also the government itself that declared war against LGBTQ people. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu recently stated the LGBT movement was a form of modern warfare – an “attempt by Western nations to undermine the country’s sovereignty”, the BBC quotes. He considers it “a bigger threat to national security than nuclear weapons“. Former communications minister Tifatul Sembiring even stated on Twitter that homosexuals should be executed. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, called for funding to be cut to a United Nations program that focuses on ending stigma, discrimination and violence, while lawmakers are discussing legislation intended to restrict LGBTQ rights, especially on the internet. The Indonesian Psychiatric Association re-labeled LGBTQ orientations as “mental disorders” and started propagating conversion therapy.
The biggest shift in the politics of the issue was a call to crackdown on LGBT rights from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the world’s largest Muslim organization ironically founded in large part to counter fundamentalist movements coming out of the Middle East. In the past NU stands on these issues were moderate, but now they are fearful of what they consider” LGBTQ propaganda aimed at moslems”. It seems the Indonesian government followed the lead of this organization, resulting in the present snowballing of anti LGBTQ measures and violence.
The LGBTQ community is living in fear. Gay rights activist, Hartoyo, who runs the support group Our Voice, told the BBC the community is on high alert: “I am scared that there will be violence against us”, he told reporters. “There is a history of violence against minorities in Indonesia that were fueled by similar kinds of statements. We need the government to protect us and the president needs to say you can’t talk to us like this.” Reuters reported that several activists adopted a new security strategy: they are setting up hotlines, safehouses and are removing any kind of online trace that could expose them to violence.
“They have pushed us into a corner,” Chairwoman Yuli Rustinawati told Reuters. “LGBT people have been pushed and are living now in fear because of the statements from the government, ministers, mayors, calling on society to beware of us.”