Today was the 17th hearing in a petition to Indonesia’s Constitutional Court, submitted by representatives of Islamic conservative groups including Aliansi Cinta Keluarga (Family Love Alliance) and the Islamic Wives Association (PII), to amend Indonesia’s criminal code regarding adultery. The conservatives say that the main point of the amendment is to criminalize homosexual acts, which they argue is a threat to Indonesia’s youth and morality (unfortunately, a popular argument given the LGBT panic Indonesia experienced in 2016). But, in fact, the proposed amendment would go much further than even that, making all sex outside of marriage illegal.
Previous hearings on the included a number of specious arguments in favor of the amendment from “experts”, including the notion that LGBT rights lead to increased instances of HIV (they don’t), that somehow LGBT rights go against the state ideology of Pancasila, and one constitutional law professor whose argument boiled down to “seeing men kiss in public is just wrong”.
Today’s session included similarly baseless arguments from Professor Syamsul Yusuf. “LGBT is a destroyer of moral character, especially for students. Not only does it interfere with education, it also destroys the birthrate of the nation,” he said in court, as quoted by Detik.
The professor further emphasized the point, saying, “It is very reasonable to conclude that, if LGBT rights are upheld in the eyes of the law, then certainly there will be no new human births, new learners, and of course, no future generation for this country.”
Hmm, is that really reasonable?
The professor’s argument rests on a few assumptions (besides the moral one). First, we’ll note that homosexuality and homosexual acts are not nor have they ever been illegal in Indonesia (except Aceh). And yet, somehow, the country is still on a trajectory towards overpopulation.
But let’s assume the professor is speaking about a theoretical future in which LGBT rights are protected in Indonesia and people are not stigmatized for their sexual orientation. In such a future, the professor believes the birth rate would completely drop to zero (or near zero, if we’re being generous with his words).
That means, in Professor Syamsul’s mind, the vast majority of people would choose to be homosexuals given the chance and the only thing preventing us from engaging in sinful, non-procreative same-sex intercourse is legal and societal restrictions (we’ll let you draw your own conclusion about what kind of person would make that particular assumption).
At any rate, the argument has obviously been empirically disproven. Birth rates in America and other countries where marriage equality has been legally recognized have not seen any kind of significant decrease in their birth rates attributable to recognizing LGBT rights, let alone fall to zero.
Frighteningly, some of the Constitutional Court judges have been extremely receptive to these kinds of arguments, with Judge Patrialis Akbar often making points in favor of the petition rather than attempt any sort of objective inquiry into its necessity. At a previous hearing, he said that Indonesia was not a secular country and that so-called human rights had to be limited by religious and moral beliefs. Today, he read a verse from the Quran in support of the argument that adultery exceeded the boundaries of morality and thus should be criminalized.