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LGBT crackdown feared in Indonesia after 12 women evicted from home

The Guardian (Australia) - September 6, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta Twelve women have been evicted from their home in the conservative Indonesian province of West Java amid renewed fears of crackdown on sexual diversity.

The group had been renting a shared house in the village of Tugu Jaya, where their cohabitation and "unfeminine" appearance had unsettled conservatives.

Responding to a complaint from religious leaders and an Islamic youth group that the women's living arrangements was "against the teaching of Islam", police raided the women's home last Saturday, giving them three days notice to leave.

According to interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, authorities provided no legal justification for the raid and forcible eviction.

"What's most offensive about this incident is that police and government officials steamrollered privacy rights and rule of law to appease the bigotry of a few neighbours," Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

"Evicting these women based on prejudiced assumptions of their sexual identity," he continued, "threatens the privacy of all Indonesians and has no place in a country whose motto is 'unity in diversity."

Noting the physical appearance of the women, one village official that preferred to remain anonymous told Human Rights Watch: "It's not acceptable to have female couples living together. Some have short hair, acting as the males. Some have long hair, acting as the females. It's against sharia [Islamic law]. It's obscene."

With the exception of the sharia-ruled province of Aceh, homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but prejudice toward people who identify as LGBT is widespread.

Last year a string of discriminatory comments by politicians and religious leaders revealed the extent of homophobic sentiment within the government. The defence minister, forexample, described LGBT people as a greater threat than nuclear war.

In May, West Java police chief Anton Charliyan announced the establishment of an anti-LGBT taskforce, telling reporters that LGBT people suffered a "disease of body and soul", and would "face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society".

There have been four such raids on LGBT people this year alone, including at a hotel in Surabaya this April, and a gay cub in north Jakarta this May.

Rights groups and activists have expressed concern about the increased possibility of more raids on LGBT people to follow.

"Personally, I am worried," said Yulita Rustinawati, from the LGBT advocacy group Arus Pelangi, "It's like we are criminals. Everything that we do now becomes risky, even living with our partners."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/06/lgbt-crackdown-feared-in-indonesia-after-12-women-evicted-from-home.

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