Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said they were held for questioning on Sunday night after the bust on a sex party promoted as “the Wild One.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia but Yuwono said pornography laws had been violated. Ten people would be charged, he said, including the sauna’s owner, strippers, a gym trainer, receptionist and security guard, and two visitors who allegedly performed oral sex. They could face penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
Some of the men were put on display for the media with their faces covered by black ski masks.
Yulita Rustinawati from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist group Arus Pelangi said the arrests were part of a growing trend of intolerance toward the community.
“It’s been increasing for two years now,” Rustinawati said. “It’s bad for democracy, for freedom of expression and freedom of association. We’re not sure what the government is trying to achieve. We are queer and we are not going away.”
In April in Surabaya in eastern Java, Indonesia’s second-largest city, police arrested 14 men at what they claimed was an orgy and forced them to have HIV tests.
Activists said police violated the rights of those arrested by photographing them naked and allowing the pictures to leak to social media.
The campaigners claimed some of the men were brought to a police station in north Jakarta naked and others were stripped at the station.
“It’s very difficult for us to express our sexuality like heterosexuals,” said Hartoyo, the director of Suara Kita, LGBT rights advocacy group. He said that releasing pictures of the shirtless men to the media was “extremely dangerous”.
North Jakarta chief police detective Nasriadi said four foreigners were caught in the raid: two Malaysians, one Singaporean and Briton. They were being questioned as witnesses, the officer said.
It is thought the arrests were part of efforts by the police to clean up the city before Ramadan.
Tobias Basuki, an analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said the police appeared to be formally adopting an approach that was previously held only by hardline Islamist groups.
“The government is trying to co-opt the religious narrative,” he told the New York Times.
Last week, a shariah court in Aceh sentenced two men to 85 lashes of a cane in public for having gay sex.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia to formally practise shariah law, although some areas have adopted shariah-style punishments.
Picture credit: YouTube