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Indonesia must protect LGBT rights: Human Rights Watch

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, February 12 2016 | 05:58 pm
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists, together with other human rights activists, take part in a weekly Kamisan protest on Dec. 10. The regular peaceful protests aim to push the government to resolve human rights cases. (thejakartapost.com/Wienda Parwitasari)(LGBT) activists, together with other human rights activists, take part in a weekly Kamisan protest on Dec. 10. The regular peaceful protests aim to push the government to resolve human rights cases. (thejakartapost.com/Wienda Parwitasari)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists, together with other human rights activists, take part in a weekly Kamisan protest on Dec. 10. The regular peaceful protests aim to push the government to resolve human rights cases. (thejakartapost.com/Wienda Parwitasari)

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in a letter sent to the President on Friday.

HRW also condemned government officials' discriminatory remarks made against LGBT communities since January, the watchdog said in a statement.

HRW has recorded that local government and education officials have touted discriminatory anti-LGBT measures, including by suggesting bans on LGBT student groups on university campuses and ordering police to halt an HIV outreach event for gay and bisexual men.

'€œPresident Jokowi should urgently condemn anti-LGBT remarks by officials before such rhetoric opens the door to more abuses,'€ said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at HRW, in a statement on Friday.

'€œThe President has long championed pluralism and diversity. This is an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment.'€

According to international law, the government was obligated to protect everyone in the country regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the statement said.

Moreover, protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination was part of Indonesia's human rights commitment, Reid said.

'€œPresident Jokowi should make an unambiguous statement of support for the fundamental rights of all Indonesians and pledge to protect LGBT people from attacks.'€

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has condemned government officials' vitriolic statements and also urged law enforcement agencies to protect LGBT people from violence.

Research and Technology and Higher Education Minister M. Nasir said in January that the LGBT community "corrupts the morals of the nation" and that members of the community should be barred from university campuses.

Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker M. Nasir Djamil made similar demeaning remarks, saying that '€œLGBT groups cannot be allowed to thrive and be given space. Especially considering that they have entered campuses through academic discussion,'€ he said last month.

The statements were made in response to the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC) at the University of Indonesia (UI), which offers counseling for LGBT students.

Following the controversy of LGBT groups on university campuses, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) also planned to issue a fatwa, a non-legally binding edict that would recommend the prosecution of Muslims who take part in LGBT-related activities, MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin said earlier this week.

HRW also recorded that sharia police in Aceh province arrested a pair of young women for '€œhugging in public" in October 2015. Moreover Brawijaya University authorities canceled an LGBT event in November, claiming they had received threats of an attack.

The Islam Defenders Front (FPI) harassed participants in a seminar on access to justice for LGBT people on Feb. 4, according to HRW.

A 2014 UN Development Program report called on the government to mainstream human rights protections for LGBT people across all state institutions, and to "officially recognize the existence of LGBT people as an integral part of Indonesian society."

As many as 12 UN agencies '€“ many operating in Indonesia '€“ signed a pledge to help governments end violence and discrimination against LGBT people in 2015. (rin)(+)

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