Police break up LGBT workshop after complaint
Indra Budiari, Safrin La Batu and Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Police have once again bowed to hardliners at the expense of minority groups and civil society by shutting down an LGBT group's closed workshop at the Cemara Hotel in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
Filing a report to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on Tuesday, Yuli Rustinawati, chairman of LGBT group Arus Pelangi, said dozens of Menteng Police officers had disbanded a workshop on access to justice for LGBT communities last week.
The police officers said they were deployed to the hotel as soon as they received a report from hardliner group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).
'The officers told us we should secure a permit from the police to hold such an event, otherwise it would be disbanded,' Yuli told The Jakarta Post. She insisted that no regulation stipulated that an event held indoors with fewer than 50 people required a police permit.
Based on the National Police chief's Instruction No. Pol/02/XII/95 on permits and notice of community activities, events that require a permit are music festivals, shadow puppet shows, Javanese theatrical performances and other shows.
Arus Pelangi's event, held between Feb. 1 and 8, was none of those. With the tagline 'LGBT Rights are Human Rights', the workshop gathered 26 participants from LGBT groups from eight provinces.
On the third day of the workshop, participants and committee members received uninvited guests in five FPI members and a police officer who asked that the event be disbanded immediately as it did not have a permit.
'We weren't committing any crime by holding the event, so we decided to continue,' said Lini Zurlia, the event's organizing committee and Arus Pelangi member.
However, a few hours later around 25 uniformed police officers swarmed the lobby and gave the hotel management no choice but to ask the committee to stop the workshop. Lini said Arus Pelangi decided to change the venue, so the workshop could be finished as scheduled.
West Jakarta Police spokesperson Comr. Suyatno said the group should have informed them about the activity, emphasizing that the police did not intend to prohibit such activities.
'But as Indonesians, we normally report our activities [to local police], especially if it involves inviting outsiders,' he told the Post.
'We would then process the event proposal and see whether or not nearby residents accepted it. Then we would make our recommendation. If something bad happens, who will society blame?' he said.
Human Rights Watch Group (HRWG) ASEAN program manager Daniel Awigra lambasted the police's actions.
'What's the basis of it? The police are responsible for protecting everyone, regardless of their politics, religion or sexual orientation. The [LGBT community] are not a threat to safety, public order, public health or morals,' he said.
Daniel believed that the police's actions stemmed from society's tendency to look at everything through a religious lens only, including homosexuality, which has been increasingly perceived as a contagious disease following recent remarks from various public officials and religious leaders.
Daniel then pointed out how the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared that homosexuality was not a disease back in 1990.
It was not the first time the police have disbanded an event following pressure from certain groups. In November 2015 the Jakarta Police did not give the go-ahead for a discussion on terrorism held by the Association of Journalists for Diversity (SEJUK), as the FPI accused the association of putting up a provocative promotional poster for the event.
A month later, the police also pressured the Jakarta Arts Council to cancel a discussion on the 1965 tragedy following a protest from dozens of artists who said that political issues should not be brought up at an arts festival.
In December, hundreds of FPI members inspected cars passing through Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta where the Indonesia Theater Federation Award was being held. They were trying to stop Purwakarta Regent Dedi Mulyadi from attending the event as they accused him of debasing the tenets of Islamic by using the Sundanese greeting Sampurasun instead of the Muslim-approved assalamualaikum.
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