Fear haunts LGBT community
Haeril Halim and Aldrin Rocky Sampeliling
The Jakarta Post
The verbal and online persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students following media reports about a University of Indonesia (UI) group has extended to the wider LGBT community and those who support them.
Members and founders of the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC) at UI, who are of diverse sexual orientations including heterosexuals, have become the victims of a witch-hunt, particularly on social media, where they have been subject to attack.
Nadya Karima Melati, an UI alumna and SGRC co-founder and coordinator, said the issue had affected her and her colleagues both socially and psychologically. 'All of our members have been summoned home and interrogated by their parents,' Nadya said.
She said she and her friends and colleagues had received threats in many forms, some by SMS, email and also from messages on social media. 'One of the members' parents was called by their boss and asked whether their child was a part of the LGBT community or not. The issue poses a serious threat to the parent's job,' she said.
Another SGRC co-founder, Arief Rahadian was disowned by his family after conservative daily Republika published online reports on the group's activities and membership, according to Nadya. Republika followed up the online pieces on Sunday with a front-page headline in its print edition stating: 'LGBT Poses Serious Threat'.
The SGRC had opened a counseling service at UI in collaboration with melela.org. The poster for the service featured three openly gay men and a 'pansexual' woman who testified about the benefit of counseling for LGBT people.
The four, who are SGRC counselors, have since experienced harassment, mostly from strangers, but also from relatives. However, they have also received a lot of support from family, friends and lecturers.
One of the counselors, Tegar Ramadan, a UI French Studies student, looked at the silver lining of the situation. 'My family and most of my friends have known about me being gay; the issue doesn't really affect me. On the contrary, I've got support from lecturers, friends and family,' he said.
Tegar who will have his graduation ceremony next month said that UI had even invited him to represent his faculty in receiving his diploma. 'This proves that people around me are very supportive,' said Tegar.
Firmansyah, UI graduate and another counselor featured on the poster, agreed. 'I feel happy that the cause has become public and a national issue. The collective pro-movement actually makes me stronger,' said Firman.
The other two counselors on the poster, Dimas Mahendra and Luna Siagian, however, had somewhat less positive experiences than Tegar and Firman.
'Dimas' mother got a visit from the neighborhood head, and now she has been crying for two days, locking herself in the bedroom, depressed,' Nadya said.
On Saturday, Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister M. Nasir made a statement prohibiting the LGBT community from operating on university campuses.
On Monday after a public outcry, he defended his earlier statements, saying he respected individuals' right to choose their sexuality and did not intend to eliminate discussion of LGBT issues on campus.
Nevertheless, the former rector of state-run Diponegoro University (Undip) in Semarang said the presence of LGBT groups in Indonesia should be examined thoroughly by academia given the fact that Indonesia was a country that upheld theological and moral values.
On his Twitter account, he insisted that members of the public misunderstood his statements in which he meant to say that he only prohibited LGBT students from expressing intimacy on campus, an act that he claimed could taint the nation's morality.
In order to increase students' awareness of 'the importance of the nation's morality', Nasir called on campus officials to intensively embrace students through mentoring programs.
Critics have described Nasir's statements as uneducated and not befitting his position as higher education minister.
Aldrin is an intern at The Jakarta Post.
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