Not il­le­gal to be gay, but po­lice are crack­ing down

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Vin­cent Bevins Vin­cent Bevins is a Wash­ing­ton Post writer.

JAKARTA, In­done­sia — In In­done­sia, the world’s largest Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tion, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is le­gal and the state largely stays out of is­sues of pri­vate moral­ity. But as con­ser­va­tive re­li­gious groups be­come more prom­i­nent in po­lit­i­cal life here, po­lice are in­creas­ingly find­ing other ways to crack down on LGBT com­mu­ni­ties.

This week­end they ar­rested 58 In­done­sians and for­eign­ers at a Jakarta sauna pop­u­lar with gay men, al­legedly for vi­o­lat­ing the coun­try’s pornog­ra­phy laws. In­done­sia’s pornog­ra­phy leg­is­la­tion — passed in 2008 and of­ten crit­i­cized by le­gal ex­perts and hu­man rights ac­tivists for be­ing too vague — tech­ni­cally pro­hibits any pub­lic de­pic­tion of sex for profit, but in prac­tice it is of­ten used against po­lit­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble groups.

“We’ve in­creas­ingly seen po­lice tar­get­ing LGBT groups us­ing pornog­ra­phy laws,” said Ricky Gu­nawan, the di­rec­tor of the Com­mu­nity Le­gal Aid In­sti­tute in Jakarta. In fact, last week’s in­ci­dent was the third of its kind that has been re­ported this year. In April, po­lice in the city of Surabaya broke up a party at a ho­tel for sim­i­lar rea­sons, ar­rest­ing 14 men, and in May, 141 men were ar­rested at a sauna in Jakarta.

“Th­ese com­mu­ni­ties have al­ways been tar­geted by po­lice, but we’ve seen this worsen since 2016, when a num­ber of high­level politi­cians made state­ments portraying LGBT com­mu­ni­ties as im­moral or a threat to the na­tion,” Gu­nawan said.

There have been sev­eral pub­lic com­ments that may have led po­lice to be­lieve a crack­down was in or­der, but the most fa­mous was prob­a­bly de­liv­ered by De­fense Min­is­ter Ryamizard Ry­acudu, who said last year that the LGBT agenda was like a “proxy war” threat­en­ing na­tional sovereignty.

Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo said last year that the job of po­lice was to de­fend LGBT com­mu­ni­ties and other groups from dis­crim­i­na­tion, but he has largely stayed on the side­lines of the de­bate as the crack­down has in­ten­si­fied.

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