Indonesian government accused of stoking 'unprecedented attack' against LGBT rights

The country's defence minister likened calls for more freedom for LGBT citizens to a 'proxy war'

Indonesian government accused of stoking 'unprecedented attack' against LGBT rights

File photo. Image: Dita Alangkara / AP/Press Association Images

The rights of the LGBT community in Indonesia have come under 'unprecedented attack' this year, according to a new report.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the country's government 'stoked' what is described as a crisis for LGBT citizens and campaigners.

Homosexuality is not criminalised in Indonesia, but the LGBT community in the country faces legal and social challenges.

While the gay community has often faced discrimination and opposition, the report suggests that there was a significant increase in the amount of anti-LGBT comments made by government officials between January and March. 

HRW says the comments ultimately "grew into a cascade of threats and vitriol against LGBT Indonesians by state commissions, militant Islamists, and mainstream religious organisations".

Local officials are accused of using hateful rhetoric, as well as using force to repress peaceful assembly.

In one example quoted by HRW, defence minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said: “It's dangerous as we can't see who our foes are; out of the blue everyone is brainwashed. Now the [LGBT] community is demanding more freedom, it really is a threat. In a proxy war, another state might occupy the minds of the nation without anyone realising it.

"In a nuclear war, if a bomb is dropped over Jakarta, Semarang will not be affected; but in a proxy war, everything we know could disappear in an instant - it's dangerous," he added.

The comments by officials are said to have led to consequences ranging from the issuing of 'censorship directives' by state institutions to the Indonesian Psychiatric Association "proclaiming same-sex sexual orientation and transgender identities 'mental illnesses'".

Kyle Knight, the author of the report, argued: "At a time when LGBT Indonesians needed protection and public support, [president Joko Widodo's] government has cowered in the face of militant Islamists.

“The government needs to demonstrate its commitment to protecting citizens from violence and discrimination by rolling back discriminatory decrees, rejecting anti-LGBT legislation proposals, and pledging public support for free expression and diversity." 

Speaking as the report was published, an Indonesian presidential spokesperson quoted in The Guardian said: “Rights of citizens like going to school and getting an ID card are protected, but there is no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement.”