Indonesia protests ‘insensitive’ LGBT+ flag-raising by British embassy

Photo illustration
Photo illustration

Update: Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Owen Jenkins, the British Ambassador to Indonesia, has noted the government’s disappointment and protest over the flag controversy. The ministry said Jenkins has pledged to forward the complaint to London.

Original story follows below.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is demanding clarification from the British Embassy in the country after the diplomatic mission raised the LGBT+ flag on its premises last week.

The ministry said it has summoned Owen Jenkins, the British Ambassador to Indonesia, over the controversy.

“[Jenkins] has been summoned and he will today meet with the relevant official who handles matters related to American and European affairs,” ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said today.

“[The flag-raising], as well as publishing [the photo] on the British Embassy’s official social media page, was highly insensitive and created a polemic among Indonesian people.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminds foreign representatives to uphold and respect sensitivities regarding culture, religion, and beliefs in Indonesia.”

Last week, the British Embassy in Jakarta raised the LGBT+ flag — next to the Union Jack — to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), which is observed every May 17.

“We urge the international community to eradicate discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to promote diversity and tolerance. We urge countries to decriminalise consensual same sex relations, and to introduce legislation that protects LGBT+ people from all forms of discrimination,” the embassy wrote in the caption of an Instagram post about the flag.

Amid messages of support in the comments, many were incensed and told the embassy to take its non-homophobic views out of Indonesia (even though the embassy is technically UK territory).

Conservative Islamic group PA 212 has called on the ministry to expel Jenkins from Indonesia over the flag’s “provocation.”

In recent weeks, homophobic sentiments have been on the rise in Indonesia after a gay couple (one of them being Indonesian, the other German) was interviewed for one of the country’s most popular podcasts. What followed was swift and immense backlash from the public, religious authorities, and even high-ranking politicians who argued that even though homosexuality and queerness is not illegal, Indonesians should not rally for their cause.

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