The Jakarta Post
Several public officials issued statements on the weekend opposing the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students on university campuses following the cancelation of an event at the University of Indonesia (UI).
Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister M. Nasir said that LGBT communities could taint the nation's morality if 'the guardians of morality [do not] promote decency and the noble values of Indonesia', as quoted by Antara news agency.
Lawmaker from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Muhammad Nasir Djamil, also commented. 'LGBT groups cannot be allowed to thrive and be given space. Especially considering that they have entered campuses through academic discussion,' lawmaker Nasir said.
Sociologist and gay-rights activist Dede Oetomo told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that he would be generous and forgiving in his response, calling the statements of both Nasirs demonstrative of 'limited knowledge in general, in particular on sexuality and human rights'.
'We have to understand that even the international world and the United Nations have recognized the rights of LGBT [communities] only recently,' he said. Therefore, he would not be offended by the statements. 'They simply never learn anything new,' he went on.
He said, however, that he had concerns about the welfare of LGBT communities on campuses after the weekend witch-hunt for the minority group.
Conservative Islamic newspaper Republika ran the headline 'LGBT poses serious threat', on its front page. The article quoted sources that slammed LGBT people for 'tainting the nation's morality', citing links between LGBT communities and promiscuity. Some other media outlets also presented LGBT issues as a threat, using terms such as 'deviant sexual behavior'.
The statements were made in response to the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC) at UI coming under the spotlight due to its 'appropriation' of UI's name and logo.
An unofficial poster for the LGBT Peer Support Network, a counseling service provided by SGRC-UI in cooperation with melela.org, a website that provides a platform for LGBT people to share their stories and experiences as a way of improving the public's understanding of these minority groups, went viral on social media last week, triggering controversy among social media users.
Many social media users posted comments on #dukungSGRCUI voicing their support for the community's activities. Meanwhile, a number of messages circulated encouraging people to initiate anti-LGBT movements on UI's campus.
The controversy prompted UI authorities to issue a statement saying that the university was not responsible for the organization's activities because the organization had not registered as a university student society and had not obtained a permit from the university to carry out its activities.
The university has asked SGRC-UI to remove the university's name and symbol from the its logo.
'It's important to note that SGRC is not a campus organization and UI has never given any permit to the community [to use UI's name and logo],' said Rifelly Dewi Astuti, UI's head of public relations and public information.
SGRC-UI is a community comprised of UI graduates, students and lecturers. The group focuses on gender and sexuality studies. The group was founded on May 17, 2014, by three UI graduates: Ferena Debineva, Arief Rahadian and Nadya Karima Melati. The organization often conducts activities on UI's campus in Depok.
Nadya said they had never had any problems with UI before, despite having conducted LGBT-related events previously. 'UI never addressed our past activities, and they even published information on our seminars on their website uiupdate.ui.ac.id,' she said.
She added that the university had only reacted strongly when the unofficial poster suddenly appeared online.
She said that the group's organizers were still discussing the project when the poster was published online.
'We are a study group that focuses on gender and sexuality issues. We firmly reject the notion that our broad scope of study is in fact small and limited because SGRC-UI is an LGBT community,' a press release from the community stated.
To receive comprehensive and earlier access to The Jakarta Post print edition, please subscribe to our epaper through iOS' iTunes, Android's Google Play, Blackberry World or Microsoft's Windows Store. Subscription includes free daily editions of The Nation, The Star Malaysia, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Asia News.