The Jakarta Post
Stepping in to address the wave of negative comment sweeping the country, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has urged the government to make good on its recent statement supporting the protection of the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) community.
The human rights commission believes that the onus is on the government to strengthen existing regulations to guarantee equal access to education and work opportunities for LGBT people and protect them from discrimination and violence.
'We have to build an inclusive nation that respects the plurality of its citizens, including minority groups,' Komnas HAM commissioner Natalius Pigai said during a discussion in Jakarta, on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan asserted that the state must guarantee the rights of the LGBT community just as it would those of any Indonesian citizen.
Luhut said that LGBT people deserved to receive equal treatment before the law, as well as equal employment opportunities.
Natalius said the government needed to show its commitment to the group by introducing regulations that offered protection from intimidation and bullying.
He cited a recent study by rights group Arus Pelangi that concluded 89.3 percent of LGBT people in Indonesia had been subjected to violence. 'The state cannot avoid the responsibility to protect the LGBT community because they are vulnerable to persecution,' the human rights commissioner said.
Support also came from a group of lawmakers calling themselves the Pancasila Caucus.
Promoted by Rahayu Saraswati of the Gerindra Party, Maman Imanulhaq of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and Eva Kusuma Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). the group called on the government to protect LGBT people against all forms of discrimination and violence.
'Regardless of the religious and medical debates, it is a fact that [LGBT people] are citizens that have the right to feel safe and protected,' Rahayu said in a statement.
They also condemned a recent attack on Al Fatah, a trans-woman boarding school in Yogyakarta, by a radical group.
LGBT rights activists concurred with the call for non-discriminatory policies, urging the public to gain a better understanding of the LGBT community's place in society.
Rio Damar, the founder of the LGBT support website melela.org, said that relevant policies should never be formulated based solely on the perceived anxiety, fear or stigma that is prevalent in the public's conscience.
Devising regulations to address the issue requires the government to promote dialogue with the relevant parties, especially when trying to regulate something as fleeting as sexual orientation, the Chevening scholar said.
'[The LGBT community] is not a group that is completely devoid of faults, just like heterosexuals. But no one should ever be judged as wrong for being homosexual,' Rio told The Jakarta Post.
Homosexuality is not illegal under Indonesian law, but the LGBT community continues to face marginalization in a Muslim-majority nation of 250 million people.
The recent strong reaction to the discovery of an LGBT study group at a university campus prompted various public officials and religious leaders to make hostile statements about the LGBT community and its goals. 'How are we supposed to fight for same-sex marriage privileges when we can't even live in peace?' said Hartoyo, a gay rights activist speaking on behalf of the minority group during Saturday's
Hartoyo also dispelled a common misconception that the LGBT 'condition' was a mental health problem, a belief that many government officials still promoted as a result of conflicting laws and provisions.
He cited the WHO's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, a move that was reflected in Indonesia in 1993 when the Health Ministry concluded that tolerance of sexuality would be part of the country's pluralist agenda.
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