Growing conservatism fuels prejudice against LGBT
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Human-rights activists have condemned the persistence of prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people after controversy erupted recently surrounding a gender and sexuality counseling group at the University of Indonesia (UI).
Human rights watchdog Setara Institute said on Wednesday that the public, including state officials, had shown of late an increased degree of intolerance toward LGBT individuals.
'We have to understand that there's a growing conservatism within our society. It has happened not only in public, but also among our officials. That's why there are officials who broadcast their personal values [and condemn the LGBT community],' Setara Institute deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos told The Jakarta Post.
He was referring to Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister M. Nasir, who made a statement on Saturday arguing for the prohibition of LGBT students from university campuses.
After a public outcry, he defended on Monday his earlier statement, saying he respected the right of individuals to choose their sexuality and had not intended to eliminate the 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.
Bonar expressed criticism of Nazir's position and behavior.
'He should have been neutral, not forgetting [his role] to protect all Indonesians without looking at their backgrounds,' Bonar said. 'Even though we don't have regulations protecting the LGBT community, we hope officials and the public will refrain [from harassing the community].'
After Nasir's statements, other public officials, including Culture and Education Minister Anies Baswedan, People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker Zulkifli Hasan, Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, delivered hostile remarks toward LGBT people.
Anies, for example, said that parents and teachers should be concerned about 'deviant behaviors' among LGBT teenagers.
'They [the public officials] have said things that could escalate violence against LGBT people and could be used to legitimize the violent behavior of intolerant groups,' Yuli Rustinawati, the chairperson of LGBT rights watchdog Arus Pelangi, told the Post.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) deputy chairman Budi Wahyuni condemned the government officials.
'We are pushing for officials to be just and level-headed and not so easily stigmatize people based on any little thing. They should refrain from making statements that could provoke violence and discrimination,' he said on Wednesday. 'We also ask that the state, the public and the media listen to the problems faced by the LGBT community, whether it's discrimination, violence or human rights violations.'
According to a study by Arus Pelangi in 2013, 89.3 percent of LGBT people in three big cities, namely Jakarta, Makassar and Yogyakarta, had experienced some form of violence because of their sexual orientation.
'We are worried [that people are growing more hostile following uneducated remarks from officials]. Therefore, we are opening a hotline for anyone [from the LGBT community] who feels worried or who has already experienced violence. They can call us or text us via WhatsApp messenger at 081293332150,' said Yuli.
She added that Arus Pelangi, alongside other activists, planned to send a letter to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo calling on him to stand up against the metastasizing discrimination and prejudice being directed toward the LGBT community.
'We are asking Jokowi to punish and reprimand the ministers and the lawmakers [who perpetuate discriminative behavior toward the LGBT community],' Yuli said.
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