A new survey published on Sunday revealed that intolerance of minorities is growing, with the highest level of hostility directed at the gay and lesbian community.
The Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) found in its most recent poll that a staggering 80.6 percent of its sample population objected to having gays or lesbians as neighbors. The figure has jumped significantly from 64.7 percent in 2005.
LSI found that intolerance of homosexuals was higher than the respondents’ aversion toward people adhering to different faiths, which stood at 15.1 percent. For the survey, LSI interviewed 1,200 respondents between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.
The respondents even preferred to live next door to what they deemed as followers of deviant sects like Shi’ism and Ahmadiyah, rather than with gays or lesbians.
The survey revealed that 41.8 percent and 46.6 percent respectively of the respondents would feel uncomfortable living next to Shia or Ahmadiyah followers.
“Most of the respondents who showed intolerance [toward these minority groups] are male, low-income and limited-education people,” LSI researcher Ardian Sopa said during a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
Close to 60 percent of respondents who admitted intolerance were men. More than 67 percent of them were uneducated or senior high school graduates at best. The LSI also found that 63.4 percent of respondents who admitted to being intolerant of minority groups earned Rp 2 million (US$208.49) or less per month.
Earlier in June, a survey published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) confirmed the widely held assumption that religious intolerance is on the rise in the country.
The CSIS survey conducted between Jan. 16 and 24 this year, found that although 83.4 percent of the respondents said that they had no problem with neighbors from different ethnic groups, 79.3 percent objected to inter-religious marriage.
Director of non-profit group Denny JA Foundation, Novriantoni Kahar, said that the survey showed that Indonesia had a long way to go before being able to accept homosexuality. “This will be very difficult because the level of acceptance is even lower than that given to people of different religions or ethnicity,” he said.
Novriantoni said what the government needed to do was to improve people’s welfare, as intolerance was mostly shown by poorer citizens. “The government needs to do more to improve socio-economic conditions. People who are unemployed or poor can easily be goaded into attacking minority groups,” he said.
Contacted separately, Hartoyo, an executive of an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) empowerment organization, blamed radical Islamist groups and the media for the growing homophobia.
Hartoyo said that the majority of the population subscribed to ideas promoted by hard-line Islamist groups, which condemned homosexuality as sinful conduct and a product of Western culture.
In May, radical Islamist groups broke up the launch of a new book by Canadian liberal Muslim activist Irshad Manji for fear that she would promote lesbianism in the country.
The media also shared the blame for only promoting stereotypes and caricatures of gay people, Hartoyo said. “Some media outlets, mainly online news portals and TV channels that are easily accessible to people tend to give imbalanced reports about us or portray us only as clowns.”
He said that in the long run, the growing homophobia could further worsen injustice against the community. “Just look at Dede Oetomo, a renowned sociologist and human rights activist. After he was named as a commissioner candidate of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the public started fussing about his sexual orientation and overlooked his impressive achievements. So, how is it possible for a person like me to be a minister?” Hartoyo said. (yps)