Padang mayor claims to have enlisted the military, exorcists to help eradicate LGBT in his city

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 LGBT moral panic in Indonesia has become particularly alarming in some areas of the country where government officials are engaging in campaigns of state-sponsored discrimination against the protected minority ahead of this year’s national elections. One of those areas is West Sumatra and one of its most outspoken anti-LGBT politicians has been the mayor of the province’s capital city of Padang.

Padang Mayor Mahyeldi Ansharullah, who led a mass anti-LGBT march in November, told a news outlet in Jakarta yesterday that the Indonesian Military (TNI) was assisting his administration in helping to rehabilitate LGBT individuals detained in raids by Padang authorities.

“We are coaching them with the TNI. Those [LGBT individual caught in] the operations that we have conducted, we develop and train them, we cultivate their nationalism, we develop their identity,” Mahyeldi said in an interview with Tirto conducted in Jakarta yesterday.

We could find no other mention of the TNI assisting in Padang;s anti-LGBT operations besides previous statements made by Mahyeldi in November which he claimed that the military would help foster waria (transgender women).

In addition, Mahyeldi reiterated previous statements about his government working with ulema (Islamic scholars) to exorcise LGBT individuals, due to the mystifying belief that it is a condition caused by jinn (genies or demons in Islamic mythology) inhabiting their bodies.

“We also involve the ulema, because from the information we have received, the existence of LGBT or lesbians is because there is indeed the influence of jinns and demons, so we perform ruqyah (exorcism) to force them to leave,” Mahyeldi said.

Officials in Padang and other cities have promised regulations to “cleanse” LGBT elements from their communities, but homosexuality and LGBT behavior are not criminal acts in Indonesia (except in sharia-enforcing Aceh).

So instead of being arrested by the regular police, gay and transgender individuals in those cities are classified as a “social sickness” so that their Civil Service Police (Satpol PP) can detain those they “suspect” of being LGBT and hand them over to the Social Services Agency for bina (guidance).

In November, the head of the Padang’s Social Service Agency, Amasrul, said that the government had agreed to work with certain civil society organizations (ormas – short for “mass organization” and often associated with hardline Islamic community groups) to perform ruqya on LGBT people in the area.

New Naratif has a great article on the subject in which they interview a gay man who endured one such ruqya (as well as many other “cures”), which he described as involving being read verses from the Quran, being prayed over, getting pummelled, massaged, and bathed in holy water — “But it had no effect whatsoever,” the interviewee said.

Politicians in places like Padang 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.  

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.

Their non-religion based arguments for persecuting LGBT individuals generally focus on the spread of HIV/AIDS, but studies have shown that the country’s attacks on the gay community have driven them further underground in fear, preventing them from accessing medical outreach programs, which is the actual cause for the country’s worsening HIV/AIDS infection rates.

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