No human rights violation in West Sumatra’s LGBT ban: Human rights commission

Anti-LGBT protesters in the West Sumatran capital of Padang on Sunday, November 18, 2018. Photo: Padang DPRD / Facebook
Anti-LGBT protesters in the West Sumatran capital of Padang on Sunday, November 18, 2018. Photo: Padang DPRD / Facebook

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), says it doesn’t see West Sumatra’s plan to ban LGBT behavior in the province as an infringement on the human rights of the persecuted minority group.

Speaking in the West Sumatra capital of Padang yesterday, Komnas HAM officials said human rights violations depends heavily on cultural context — something that could justify the prohibition of any group or behavior.

“The people of West Sumatra have a culture that can’t be separated from Islam. This has been the case since a long time ago. If the people and government here create a regulation that bans LGBT behavior because it’s not in line with tradition, then it’s not wrong nor is it a violation of human rights,” Komnas HAM Chairman Ahmad Taufan Damanik said, as quoted by Tirto.

Despite seemingly being oblivious to the fact that not allowing one to express one’s sexual orientation is, intrinsically, a form of discrimination and therefore a violation of basic human rights, Ahmad went on to say that there’s a difference between passing a law and using force or violence to enforce it.

“The prohibition of a certain behavior is not a problem, but we can’t rob people of their basic rights, such as receiving education and healthcare. What must also be known is that human rights are not absolute,” he said.

Ahmad also urged activists from outside West Sumatra, who have criticized persecution against the LGBT community in the province, to not adopt an outside perspective when looking into the matter in West Sumatra.

“Aceh stands with its sharia law. Bali also has its culture police. They were all adapted according to each region’s norms,” he said.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia (except in Aceh, the only region of Indonesia with special autonomy to enact explicitly sharia-based law) but in many parts of the country, particularly in West Sumatra, which saw several anti-LGBT protests numbering in the tens of thousands in late 2018, authorities often take extra-legal action to harass and assault LGBT individuals on easily-biased grounds such as maintaining public order (as happened in the case of 10 “suspected lesbians” who were detained by police in Padang).

Politicians in places like Padang — some of whom said they’ll work with exorcists to expel female genies from men and “cure” them of LGBT behavior — and several other cities in West Sumatra and Indonesia say they will continue to push for anti-LGBT legislation from the national government but some have also suggested using customary law punishments, such as parading “suspects” through the street and exiling them from their villages, as another possible alternative.  

West Sumatra politicians are working to pass a Regional Regulation (Perda) banning LGBT behavior outright in the province. As of December of 2018, West Sumatra officials said they were still drafting the law, which justifies LGBT prohibition on the grounds that “deviant sexual behavior” is incompatible with tradition and religion in the region.

Human Rights Watch last year released a report highlighting a disturbing rise in persecution against LGBT individuals in Indonesia. The recent increase in anti-LGBT hysteria, the worst the country has seen since the height of the last LGBT moral panic 2016, has been 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.

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