Bowing to pressure, the organizers of the conference of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex associations across Asia decided Thursday to call off the event to avoid “unwanted circumstances”.
The police on Wednesday stated it would not grant a permit to hold the event, fearing protests from religious groups.
Poedjiati Tan, the organizing committee head of the 4th Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (ILGA) regional conference initially scheduled to be held from March 26 to 28 in the East Java capital, Surabaya, said the committee has canceled the event as well as hotel reservations to prevent unwanted circumstances.
They have also notified some 200 invited participants from 16 countries, she added.
”Actually, it’s not the permit issue, but the police are still considering the security issue,” Tan said.
Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, Ifdhal Kasim, said banning the conference was a violation of human rights.
“Holding a conference is a form of freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the Constitution,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
He said the commission had sent a letter to East Java Police urging them to ensure the security of the ILGA conference in the province.
The government, he said, must uphold that freedom by providing protection for minority groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who are stigmatized by society and thus prone to intimidation.
“There should be affirmative action for the minorities. There is no regulation banning LGBTs from convening in the country.”
However, the National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said Thursday in Jakarta that the police had not issued a permit for the event.
“We acknowledge there was fierce objections to the event from dozens of mass organizations.
“We are obliged to ensure the security of East Java, which might be affected by this event,” she said.
In Surabaya, members of Muslim organizations were mobilized, combing for conference participants and organizers in a number of areas in the city, including hotels.
The East Java branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and a number of religious leaders from Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah — the two largest Muslim organizations in the country — had earlier expressed opposition to the event, which they said ran contrary to religious values and teachings.
Waves of protests against the conference have also taken place in a number of areas in East Java, including by hundreds of students from the Silaturrahim Forum of the Indonesian Campus Proselytizing Council (FSLDK) in Surabaya.
Group coordinator Indra Kusuma Aryanto said that gay and lesbian communities had the right to
gather and ally under the law, but insisted that religious organizations also had the right to protest the gathering.
In Kediri, hundreds of gay, lesbian and transvestites from the Unity Information and Creativity Institute (Lintas) held a rally calling on the government and police to stop discriminating against them.
”The presence of gay organizations actually protects the society from gay-related crimes and the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Lintas leader Adit said by phone.
Separately on Thursday the Constitutional Court ruled against petitioners requesting a review of the Pornography Law which, among others, criminalizes homosexuality.