The Jakarta Post
Human rights activists have warned that recent statements made by public officials and religious leaders who want to limit the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) people are ill-informed and may trigger discrimination. .
Human rights advocacy group Setara Institute said the Indonesian Ulema Council ( MUI )’s statement calling for legal measures against LGBT community-related activities was an act of discrimination that threatened civil liberties.
"Setara urges the government not to comply with MUI's request, as it could potentially create discriminatory policies," the group’s deputy chairman, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, told thejakartapost.com on Friday. He said the government must stand above all society groups and treat every citizen equally.
The MUI has long been criticized as representing only strict conservatives with narrow theology.
Bonar went on to say that LGBT activities did not, as some have suggested, constitute "promotion", or encouraging others to change sexuality, but merely strove to express their identity, with the aim of gaining wider acceptance and understanding from society.
Bonar said the existence of LGBT was a part of many long-standing Indonesian cultures, such as those of the Javanese and Bugis , with LGBT people playing a unique function, especially in rituals and the arts.
The activist also cautioned against the statements recently made by Indonesian public officials, who claimed such sexual orientations were not in accordance with national values and morals.
Bonar stressed that the concept of the Indonesian identity was dynamic, not static, in nature; thus, it would continue to develop and adapt with the changing of times.
He said the rising global awareness of LGBT showed respect for the pursuit of equality and fairness, as well as empathy for a group of people who in the past had been subject to frequent persecution.
Meanwhile Hartoyo, the director of Suara Kita, an NGO focusing on the promotion and protection of LGBT rights, said government officials should be more careful of the comments they made, and refrain from speaking on issues on which they knew little.
Hartoyo said conservative organizations such as the MUI tended to stir up controversy, and were therefore a problem for the whole nation.
"They create a bad image for Indonesia. However, we can't eliminate them since they are also part of our society. This is the responsibility of President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s administration," Hartoyo said.
As reported earlier, discrimination against LGBT people in Indonesia has been growing stronger recently, with government officials and religious leaders publicly stating their stance against sexual orientations they regard as deviating from Indonesia’s moral values and religious norms.
The MUI and several other Muslim organizations recently declared that LGBT activities were haram and urged the government to take tougher measures against the community.
MUI's chief of religious tolerance, Yusnar Yusuf, said that the council wanted the government to ban activities promoting the LGBT community and viewed the sexual tendency as an illness that could be healed. ( ebf )