HRW slams LGBT legal moves

Gay Muslims in London pride, 2011. Islam has a complex relationship with homosexuality. Source: Wikimedia

The Indonesian Constitutional Court will hold its fifth hearing on Tuesday on proposed revisions to the country’s criminal code that would punish consensual same-sex and boost penalties for sex outside marriage, Human Rights Watch said.

According to court documents, it is being argued that the current articles “threaten family and national resilience”, and the proposed changes are necessary to “protect religious values”.

The proposed legislation, which carried penalties of up to five years in jail, violated internationally protected rights to privacy and non-discrimination, the US-based lobby group said. The court is being asked to rule on the constitutionality of proposed changes to the criminal code brought by scholars from the Bogor Agricultural Institute near Jakarta. They are seeking amendments to laws on adultery, rape and underage sex in the criminal code.

“The proposed criminal sanctions before the Constitutional Court are not only a threat to LGBT people, but to all Indonesians,” argued Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights chief at Human Rights Watch. “Laws that threaten privacy inevitably affect everyone.”

Human Rights Watch announced: “The proposed amendments follow an unprecedented anti-LGBT campaign that began in January with a series of biased and false statements about people from government officials and politicians. The anti-LGBT onslaught provided social sanction for harassment and violence against LGBT Indonesians, and death threats by militant Islamists. Government institutions, including the National Broadcasting Commission and the National Child Protection Commission, issued censorship directives banning information and broadcasts that portrayed the lives of LGBT people as ‘normal’ as well as so-called ‘propaganda’ about LGBT lives. That combination of discriminatory rhetoric and policy decisions harmed the privacy, security, and free expression rights of people across the country.”

Rights of privacy were key to protection for everyone’s physical autonomy and preferred identity, it argued.

In the 1994, the UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a signatory, ruled that “it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of ‘privacy'”.

In 2013 Jakarta helped sponsor a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the right to privacy. In the report on that resolution, the UN high commissioner for human rights reminded governments that privacy rights should be upheld.

“The Constitutional Court has an important opportunity to strengthen the right to privacy and non-discrimination in Indonesia,” Reid argued.  “At stake in the proposed laws are the privacy rights of all Indonesians—the bedrock of a society in which individual dignity is protected for everyone.”