News of 36-year-old Indonesian national Reynhard Sinaga being sentenced to life in prison for 136 counts of rape in the UK shocked the world last week, and it has also created troubling implications for the LGBT community in Indonesia, most notably in Reynhard’s hometown of Depok, West Java.
Reynhard, a post-graduate student in Manchester, was found guilty of 136 counts of rape, eight counts of attempted rape, 14 counts of sexual assault, and one count of assault by penetration against 48 men he lured from outside nightclubs to his apartment, where he drugged and sexually assaulted them while filming the attacks.
UK authorities say they have evidence that Sinaga assaulted at least 190 victims over a 10-year period, after having moved to England to study in 2007, though many remain unidentified.
Indonesian media outlets have since found that Reynhard studied at a renowned university in Depok, and that his family currently lives in the city.
Because of Reynhard’s ties to the city, officials in Depok have conflated his crimes with being gay, and using that to justify a renewed crackdown on the marginalized sexual minorities.
In an article published to the Depok city administration’s official website, Mayor Mohammad Idris said authorities are going to conduct raids at public spaces known to be frequented by LGBT people, as well as private spaces like houses and apartments to “prevent the spread of [LGBT] behavior.”
Furthermore, Idris said the city may set up an “LGBT crisis center” as not only a hub for LGBT people to receive treatment, but also a place for those who support the LGBT cause to receive counseling.
“Socially and in accordance with the morals of all religions, which all reject LGBT,” Idris said.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) today issued a statement condemning Idris’ policy.
“Komnas HAM has sent a letter to the mayor of Depok asking for a revocation of the policy, as well as to ask for the protection of the rights of the sexual orientation and gender minorities,” Komnas HAM Commissioner Beka Ulung Hapsara wrote in a statement.
Beka pointed out that Indonesia’s constitution guarantees citizens the freedom from discrimination, while the World Health Organization has long rejected the view that homosexuality is a disease.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia (except in sharia law-enforcing Aceh), yet the country has seen various regional and city governments passing or trying to pass laws discriminating against citizens on the basis of sexual orientation. One example is the city of Pariman in West Sumatra, which introduced a law in 2018 fining those found committing homosexual acts. Last year, Depok was also close to passing anti-LGBT legislation in line with the city’s growing conservatism in recent years.
Such laws, as well as vague regulations on pornography and public order, are often used by authorities as a justification for raiding private gatherings of LGBT individuals and suppressing gay rights activists.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch released a report highlighting a disturbing rise in persecution against LGBT individuals in Indonesia. The increase in anti-LGBT hysteria, the worst the country had seen since the height of the last LGBT moral panic 2016, was attributed by some to election-year politics and cynical leaders looking to score easy electoral points with increasingly conservative voters by scapegoating the vulnerable minority group.