Gay serial rapist case sparks LGBT crackdown in Indonesia

Reynhard Sinaga

Convicted serial rapist Reynhard Sinaga

The conviction of Reynhard Sinaga for a spate of serial rapes of men in the UK is being used to justify a clampdown on LGBT people in Indonesia.

Sinaga, 36, described as “Britain’s most prolific rapist”, was last week sentenced to life in prison on 136 rape charges. It is believed that the then-student raped or sexually abused at least 195 men over two and a half years in Manchester.

Most of the victims were heterosexual and were drugged and unconscious when they were abused or raped by Sinaga, who videoed the attacks on his phones.

From a wealthy family in Indonesia, Sinaga came to the UK in 2007 at the age of 24 on a study visa. He was expelled from Leeds University after he was arrested. His family reportedly did not know he was gay until he was tried.

Sinaga’s crime spree has become a national scandal in Indonesia with Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung stating that “The case, whether we like it or not, has smeared our reputation.” The LGBT community, as a result, has become an easy target for outraged Indonesians on social media.

Stacey Nikolay, head of communications for LGBT group Arus Pelangi, told ABC that the case “will definitely bring further discrimination to the LGBT community here in Indonesia.”

It’s already begun. According to The Jakarta Post, the mayor of Depok – the town where Sinaga’s family lives – has responded to his crimes by calling for raids targeting the LGBT community.

Mayor Mohammad Idris requested that the city’s Health Agency, Social Affairs Agency and Child Protection and Family Empowerment Agency work to prevent the “spread of LGBT” in order to “strengthen families’ resilience and especially protect the children.”

He further instructed the Depok Public Order Agency tp carry out raids on rooming houses and apartments to target LGBT people and called for efforts in “educating” people “who are pro-LGBT in the name of human rights.”

Conservative groups and homophobes have also used Sinaga’s behaviour as evidence to justify condemning LGBT people as sick, evil and morally deviant.

In a statement, alarmed civil society groups urged Indonesians to separate Sinaga’s appaling attacks from his sexual orientation, reports The Guardian.

“Sexual violence can be committed by and to anyone regardless of class, level of education, religion, age, sex and sexual orientation,” the groups said. “Blaming sexual orientation for one’s criminal actions is an attempt to turn the issue of sexual violence into hate against vulnerable LGBT groups.”

The organisations have encouraged Indonesians to rather focus on tackling rampant sexual violence in Indonesia instead of scapegoating any specific group or community.

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

Over the last few years, Indonesia has dramatically reversed its general tolerance towards LGBT people, taking on a more radical Islamic approach to sexuality and gender identity.

LGBT people are routinely discriminated against, abused and arrested, often under the country’s anti-pornography laws. Morality police have raided private residences and businesses, while the government has moved to censor LGBT expression and representation in the media.

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