Indonesia moves closer to jailing gay people

Public flogging in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Health has declared homosexuality a mental disorder just days ahead of an expected vote to make same-sex love a crime.

According to local media, the ministry will include homosexuality in its list of mental disorders in an upcoming new medical guide.

The decision follows the announcement in 2016 by the Indonesian Psychiatrists’ Association (PDSKJI) that it views homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The organisation categorises gays, lesbians and bisexuals as “people with psychiatric problems” and transgender people as having “mental disorders”.

Indonesia’s mental health professionals are very much behind the times; the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a disorder back in 1990.

In its own 2017 report on the subject, the health ministry also stated that “homosexuality was against the ethos of the country”.

The news comes ahead of alarming reports that lawmakers are set to vote on legislation amending the criminal code to criminalise homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

Homosexuality is currently legal in most of Indonesia, except in the Aceh province, where penalties for Muslims include public floggings.

The new bill would punish homosexuality across the country with up to five years in prison. It reportedly has the support of the country’s main political parties and could pass within the next two weeks, possibly as soon as Valentine’s Day.

In December, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rejected a petition for it to criminalise homosexuality because, it said, this was best left to lawmakers. That may now soon become a reality.

Over the last two to three years the country has dramatically reversed its past general tolerance towards LGBT people, instead taking on a more radical Islamic approach to sexuality and gender identity.

Police cutting transgender women’s hair

LGBT people are now routinely discriminated against and abused, often under the country’s anti-pornography laws.

Emboldened morality police are increasingly raiding private residences and businesses, while the government has moved to censor LGBT expression and representation in all media – including blocking LGBT dating apps.

Late last month, police raided several beauty salons in Aceh province and arrested a number of transgender women. They were publicly humiliated and assaulted and forced to cut their hair and to wear men’s clothing.

“We are holding them for three days to give them counselling and coaching. It’s going well and now they are all acting like real men,” the local police chief told the BBC.

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