Indonesian mayor cancels Color Run event over suspicions rainbow theme might ‘represent LGBT’

An event poster for the cancelled Bekate Color Run in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photo: Twitter
An event poster for the cancelled Bekate Color Run in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photo: Twitter

The Bekate Color Run was scheduled for October 21 in the West Sumatra city of Bukittinggi, but no runner crossed the finish line because the race event never happened.

That’s because the city’s mayor, M. Ramlan Nurmatias, cancelled the Color Run for reasons that we can only describe as being based in the most ridiculous of homophobic paranoia.

Speaking to state radio network Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) earlier this month, Ramlan said he pulled the permit for the event due to suspicions that it was somehow associated with support for the LGBT community.

“As the regional head I rescinded the event permit for the Color Run in Bukittinggi. This decision is based on indications that the Color Run is an activity that contains themes of LGBT support so it could be disturbing to the people of Bukittinggi. This was seen from numerous negative comments [against the event] on social media,” he said.

But what exactly about the run made it supposedly synonymous with the LGBT community?

“The Color Run event is an activity that is suspected to be an event to support the presence of LGBT. Because of the rainbow colors that have become the theme of the event, it is indicative of being the logo of the LGBT community,” Ramlan said.

The West Sumatra Regional Council (DPRD) also supported Ramlan’s move in a statement posted on the province government’s official website, but warned the city administration to vet organizers before approving any events to prevent anything like this from happening in the future.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for the Human Rights Watch, told Coconuts that this case speaks volumes about the increasing paranoia towards LGBT individuals and communities in Indonesia — fears that are being perpetuated particularly by government officials.

“This moral panic really needs to be stopped. Minangkabao (ethnic group indigenous to West Sumatra) leaders should have the moral courage to educate the public that homosexuality is natural. Many traditional cultures and languages recognize non-binary sexuality,” Andreas said.

“We have five words for gender in Bugis. The Javanese and the Sundanese also have long recognized gender minorities. Moral panics will affect economic, social and political development. It is totally negative.”

READ: #Uninstallgojek and the high cost of supporting LGBT rights in Indonesia

Human Rights Watch also released a report yesterday highlighting a recent rise in persecution against LGBT individuals in Indonesia. One form this has taken is a disturbing number of anti-LGBT statements and policies made by government officials in the last few weeks.  

While the Color Run cancellation story was barely reported on by the national media in Indonesia, it did not escape the ridicule of some Indonesian netizens who pointed out the huge flaw in Mayor Ramlan’s logic.

“Next I propose the mayor should ban kue lapis (colorful layered soft rice flour pudding) and colorful gulai (Indonesian curry) seasoning because they are indicative of showing support for LGBT,” the post above reads.

“That’s right, this [kue lapis] is so LGBT. Especially rainbow cake,” another replied.

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