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Gay men in Jakarta fearful amid growing police crackdown on LGBTI community
ABC Radio Australia - October 10, 2017
Rights groups say the men committed no crime and were released after intense questioning. The sauna's owner and workers have been charged under draconian pornography laws.
But one 27-year-old Indonesian man, who spoke under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said his immediate thoughts were of his family.
Living as trans in Indonesia
The Indonesian transgender community regularly faces verbal assaults from government and religious figures. While they are under pressure to change, some are living their lives undeterred.
"At the time on the raid, what went on in my head was mostly fear of embarrassing my big family," the man said. "Even though I already came out to my main family, the big family doesn't know that I'm gay yet. So at the time I thought of that."
The man said he hopes LGBT people as a minority to one day share the same basic rights as other Indonesians. "We have feelings too. We need people who understand us. We need to love and be loved. But what happens in Indonesia is discrimination against minority," he said.
"My experience as a gay man so far is that generally I feel a great deal of fear. Especially lately I've heard that there's going to be an anti-LGBT law."
The man believes the actions of police compromised a foundational Indonesian philosophical doctrine known as the Pancasila. "In Indonesia we have human rights institutions. We have Pancasila that guarantees social justice for all citizens," he said.
Police unable to distinguish faith and duty
In Indonesia this year, gay men were arrested in a hotel room in Surabaya, there was a forced eviction of men from a house in Medan, and more than 100 men were detained by police after a raid on a Jakarta club, to name a few.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia apart from in the semi-autonomous province of Aceh. Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch said the fear among the LGBTI community is real and justified.
"I am concerned because these police raids against LGBT gatherings, houses and clubs are increasing. It is a rise of discrimination. It is growing conservatism in the country," Mr Harsono said.
"[On Friday], more than 50 gay men were arrested, and then they were questioned and then checked. Their passports and ID cards were also checked by the police. "They were screened by the police one-by-one. Of course the question is, 'What is their crime?'"
Mr Harsono said the police crackdown is more driven by religion than the law, with individual police motivated by their personal views. "The police officers cannot differentiate between their faith and their duty," he said.