Police in Sumatra detain 10 ‘suspected lesbians’ based on kiss photos posted to social media

Satpol PP officer detaining a group of women “suspected” of being lesbians in Padang, West Sumatra on Nov 4, 2018. Photo: HUMAS SATPOL PP Padang / Facebook
Satpol PP officer detaining a group of women “suspected” of being lesbians in Padang, West Sumatra on Nov 4, 2018. Photo: HUMAS SATPOL PP Padang / Facebook

There are numerous reports that persecution against Indonesia’s LGBT community is once again on the rise and every day there seem to be new stories about officials taking discriminatory action against the vilified minority group. Following a story we reported on yesterday about authorities in Lampung degrading a group of transwomen, today we have another story from Sumatra about police chasing down and detaining a group of 10 women on “suspicion” of being lesbians.

According to a release posted to the official Facebook page of the Civil Service Police (Satpol PP) in Padang, West Sumatra, the 10 women were secured at two locations on Sunday.

10 Wanita lesbi Diamankan PetugasPADANG–Maraknya isu perilaku Lesbian Gay Biseksual dan Transgender/transeksual (LGBT)…

Posted by HUMAS SATPOL PP Padang on Sunday, November 4, 2018

The release says the 10 “suspected lesbians” were secured based on information from social media.

“On a Facebook account, one of them looks like they shared photos uploaded to the woman’s account showing scenes of them cuddling and kissing like men and women. From this finding, our officers finally conducted reconnaissance and managed to find the identity and whereabouts of the indecent photo uploader, ” Padang Satpol PP head Yadrison is quoted as saying in the release.

The release goes on to say that Satpol PP officers rounded up five of the women at one boarding house in South Padang and the other five in East Padang. The women’s ages ranged from 23-31.

Homosexual acts are not illegal in Indonesia except in Aceh, the only province with special autonomy to enact sharia-based laws (though many politicians are working to get anti-LGBT laws passed throughout the rest of the country). So the only legal basis the Satpol PP can use to detain LGBT individuals in cases like this are on vague and easily biased standard of “disturbing” public order.

And because they could not be charged with any crime, Satpol PP sent the 10 women to Padang’s Social Services Office for “guidance” (which typically involves contacting the detained parties’ families and forcing them to sign statements that they will not repeat their “deviant” behavior).

“Henceforth, we will send the 10 people to the Office of Social Services in order to guide them and we hope that the community will work together with us to oversee our children’s relationships and whom they associate with as they affect the attitude and mentality of our children,” Yadrison said.

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

Human Rights Watch recently released a report highlighting a disturbing rise in persecution against LGBT individuals in Indonesia. In addition to vigilante acts, it has also taken the form of state-sponsored persecution involving a number of anti-LGBT statements and policies made by government officials in the last few weeks.  

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