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Jakarta Post

EDITORIAL: Persecuting sexual minorities


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, February 1, 2018   /   08:17 am
EDITORIAL: Persecuting sexual minorities Coming out loud: Faizal (second right) from Jakarta and Oxelia (right) from Gorontalo, northern Sulawesi, are voted Mister and Miss Gaya Dewata 2017 after a lengthy workshop and grand final at Bhumiku Convention Center in Denpasar, Bali. (JP/Luh De Suriyani)

Indonesia is campaigning for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2019-2020, boasting its track record that includes ranking as the ninth largest contributor of security personnel to world peacekeeping operations.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo repeated his offer to assist Afghanistan during his visit there on Monday, right after a devastating attack that killed over 100 civilians. Indonesia has also continued to do what it can to relieve the plight of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

But in North Aceh, law enforcers rounded up 12 transgender women last weekend, dragged them to the local police headquarters, shaved their heads, made them wear men’s clothing and had them run around while shouting as part of their “training” to become real men.

So while we raise solidarity for the Rohingya and fight for the coveted UN seat, our minorities may join Myanmar’s Muslims in fleeing for asylum from the largest Muslim populated country. These include minorities with gender identities and expressions outside the common male or female categories — the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Not all UN Security Council members are angels when it comes to their sexual minorities. Yet Indonesia holds itself to lofty standards as a candidate for the position. So, are we going to bawl about “particular” human rights while we have ratified UN conventions on human rights?

As stated by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi in her press statement at the beginning of the year: “In the midst of growing skepticism toward values, and in the face of democracy and human rights setbacks all over the world, democracy and human rights will continue to be an asset for Indonesia’s diplomacy.”

In the region, Minister Retno said, “Indonesia continues to encourage human rights mainstreaming efforts across all pillars of the ASEAN Community.”

ASEAN’s views on human rights may still be “anti-Western,” but through decades of authoritarian rule we found how “Asian values” only entrenched dictators and powerful groups. Now power-seekers pounce on fears of “freedom gone too far” to restrict anything deemed to disrupt “traditional values” and religion, including “the threat of LGBT.”

Indeed, genuine desires to adhere to Islam and avoid sin contributed to the bylaw on the Criminal Code that bans homosexuality in Aceh, the only province allowed to apply sharia, though on questionable interpretation. Such aspirations have reached the House of Representatives, where lawmakers are reportedly finalizing the draft to the revised Criminal Code which would include criminalizing all extra-marital relations and consensual same-sex relations — never mind how law enforcers would stalk bedrooms.

Therefore, sexual minorities are increasingly under threat from persecution by those claiming to uphold morality and religion. Restricting stigmatized groups is an easy vote-winner ahead of local and national elections. But aspiring for significant UN responsibilities while persecuting LGBT people is an affront to international community. The ugly facts on the ground severely challenge our diplomats striving to campaign for Indonesia to be recognized as the world’s “partner for peace, security and prosperity.”