Police in Indonesia have raided what they dubbed a “gay party” in the capital city of Jakarta, with nine individuals now facing imprisonment.
Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the incident as a violation of the men’s rights to privacy and association.
On 29 August, 31 police officers forcibly broke up a private gathering of 56 men at a hotel and arrested and charged nine men with the crime of “facilitating obscene acts” and for violating the country’s pornography law.
Activists claim these ‘crimes’ are being used to persecute the LGBT community. “This latest raid fits into a disturbing pattern of Indonesian authorities using the pornography law as a weapon to target LGBT people,” said Kyle Knight, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The government has been inciting hostility toward LGBT people for several years, and there is no accountability for abuses such as police raids on private spaces,” Knight added.
The Jakarta raid is part of a years-long pattern of authorities unlawfully apprehending LGBT people in private spaces, said Human Rights Watch. An uptick in anti-LGBT rhetoric and attacks since 2016 has resulted in the application of discriminatory clauses in the pornography law to target LGBT people for arrest and prosecution.
Article 296 of Indonesia’s criminal code makes it a crime for someone to make “an occupation or a habit of intentionally causing or facilitating any obscene act by others.” The maximum penalty is 16 months in prison.
Indonesia’s 2008 Law on Pornography prohibits the “creation, dissemination or broadcasting of pornography containing deviant sexual intercourse,” which includes lesbian and male homosexual sex and has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
A group of activists, including LGBT organisations, attempted to challenge the law in the Constitutional Court in 2009, but the court declined to review it.
“There is no legal justification for criminalising the behaviour these men are accused of,” commented Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid “Such a gathering would pose no threat to anyone. The authorities are being discriminatory and violating the human rights to privacy and family life, freedom of expression, and the freedom of assembly and association.”
Hamid argued that “Raids like these send a terrifying message to LGBTI people” and called on the authorities to release all those arrested at the party and drop all charges against them. “No one should be targeted and arrested because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The police should be keeping everyone safe, not stoking more discrimination.”
In January this year, the mayor of Depok, a city in West Java, ordered police to raid private residences to look for “immoral acts” and “prevent the spread of LGBT.”
“The combination of exploiting the discriminatory pornography law and a lack of accountability for police misconduct has proved to be both dangerous and durable,” Knight said. “So long as the government permits police raids on private gatherings under a discriminatory law, it will fail to curb anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation.”