Indonesia planning ‘anti-gay’ bill

The Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh. Aceh may point to where the rest of the archipelago is heading. Source: Wikimedia 

Indonesia’s politicians are believed to be drafting an anti-gay ‘propaganda’ bill similar to Russia’s 2013 legislation outlawing the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations”.

After a crackdown on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) content on sites like Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr, the communications and information minister is apparently drafting a bill to prohibit LGBT “propaganda”.

Ministry spokesperson Ismail Cawidu told the Jakarta Post that the minister was setting up a panel to discuss the issue.

“The house commission has urged us, so we have to follow up on their proposal. However, the panel will still refer to the mechanism [to ban such websites] as stipulated in the prevailing provision,” said Cawidu.

The law, proposed by the House of Representatives Commission, with its chair Mahfudz Siddiq reportedly suggesting the issue was a matter of “national security”.

“LGBT issues can damage national security, identity, culture and the faith of Indonesians,” Siddiq was quoted saying by the Jakarta Post. The traditionally tolerant Ulema Council chairman Din Syamsuddin has said people should not direct hatred towards the LGBT community.

”We need to give the LGBT people direction, especially for the LGBT people who realise that homosexuality is indecent behaviour,” said Din.

Jakarta last month instructed Facebook and WhatsApp to remove gay-themed emojis. The symbols showing same-sex couples and families have already been dropped by the messaging app Line.


Indonesia also last month said it would ban blogging site Tumblr because it had carried explicit content.

Endy Bayuni, editor-in-chief of the Jakarta Post, wrote in the Straits Times: “[Isis] has not received similar harsh public lashings in Indonesia, not even after the deadly terrorist attack in Jakarta in January for which the Syria-based group claimed responsibility. As far as Indonesians are concerned, the LGBT community is the bigger threat because it concerns the nation’s morality and, therefore, its existence and its future.

“Foreigners, who in the past have lavished praise on Indonesia for its record of religious tolerance and moderation, will have a hard time recognising the country. It is hard to believe, but the government is actually leading the anti-LGBT campaign, with one senior official after another going on public record to express distaste and loathing of gay people.”

In January, higher education minister Muhammad Nasir, apparently alarmed at the appearance of LGBT groups on university campuses, said any member of a sexual minority engaging in public displays of affection should be banned from university.

In 2015 an Indonesian province of Aceh introduced re-introduced caning to punish homosexuality, which could be extended to tourists. Sumatra’s Aceh enforces Islamic Sharia law and has autonomous powers over crime and punishment.

The country’s top mental health authority last week said homosexuality should not be left “untreated” and men were recently banned from behaving effeminately or dressing in women’s clothing on television.

The broadcasting commission, the KPI issued a directive banning men from behaving “like women”, after allegedly receiving complaints from viewers.