Indonesia may not be one of the most tolerant countries when it comes to the LGBT community, but according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), since January 2016 there has been a rise in negative rhetoric that has resulted in attacks against gays, lesbians, trans-sexuals and bisexuals.
According to the report, which was released on 11 August, there was a mix of tolerance and prejudice in the Indonesian society until last year. However, since the start of 2016, stoking of intolerance by militants, government officials and mass religious groups, immediately led to deterioration of human rights of LGBT individuals. The report adds that the government fanned these flames of hatred and intolerance, and failed to uphold international human rights commitments.
In January, the Minister of Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir called for a ban of LGBT organisations on university campuses, while Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro compared being homosexual to "a type of modern warfare".
HRW explained that what began as public condemnation quickly developed into mass demand for criminalisation and "cures" for people of the marginalised community.
"The discriminatory actions of Indonesian officials and institutions has laid bare the depth and breadth of the government's prejudice – and the campaign of hate is apparently not over yet," said Kyle Knight, a researcher at HRW and author of the report.
The report further elaborates that the Indonesian government will need to take strong measures to prevent further attacks on members of the LGBT community and instead of slurring people, government officials should "make and enforce public pledges to protect all Indonesians from violence and discrimination".
Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim group, in February called gay lifestyles perverted and a desecration of dignity. The local government of the province of Aceh asked local businesses to not hire gay citizens. An Islamic transgender boarding school was forced to close in Yogyakarta, while a peaceful rally in Central Java in support of the gay community was shut down.
Indonesia's national laws have never criminalised homosexuality but a number of local by-laws are discriminatory against LGBT people. The research conducted also reveals that the country has failed to enact specific legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
A 25-year-old gay man from South Sulawesi province told Human Rights Watch: "I don't feel safe with seeing all the 'end LGBT' statements on social media. I feel like a dog. Police and government should protect us – not participate in this."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has yet to address the growing epidemic of hate and intolerance that has started to spread across the country. "At a time when LGBT Indonesians needed protection and public support, Jokowi's government has cowered in the face of militant Islamists," Knight said.