W. Sumatra governor defends university’s discrimination against LGBT: ‘Students have a right to feel safe from sexual perversion’

Last year’s moral panic over LGBT rights in Indonesia eventually died down, but institutionalized discrimination against the minority group continues to be perpetuated and defended by senior government officials.

The governor of West Sumatra, Irwan Prayitno took to Twitter to defend a controversial policy by Padang’s Universitas Andala (Unand) to officially discriminate against LGBT individuals by forcing all applicants to sign a form saying they are not a part of the minority group.

Unand’s chancellor Tafdil Husni said the state university reserves the right to refuse education to LGBT individuals because of religious teachings. He also said that the influence of LGBT individuals could have a negative effect on campus life and that they could be banned on similar grounds as banning public smoking in Singapore.

While legal rights activists denounced the policy as blatantly discriminatory, Governor Irwan took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend Unand using specious, homophobic arguments.

“Unand has the right to reject LGBT students, and myself and the people of Minang also have the right to reject them. There is no need for a local regulation, we will protect each other.”

“Everybody has the right to an equal education, and Unand’s students have the rights to feel secure from sexual perversion.”

“Of course LGBT students could attend Unand, but in accordance with Unand’s directive, they should be prepared to change themselves in order to return to normal. We are ready to facilitate counseling.”

“Educational institutions and jobs also imposed bans on the use of drugs. That doesn’t create any controversy as we are already used to living with drugs.”

Wow, there is just so much wrong in what he said that it’s hard to unpack. First of all, neither the university nor the government has the right to discriminate against LGBT individuals under the constitution, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens. Even President Joko Widodo said last year that “the police must act” against any moves by bigoted groups or individuals to harm LGBT people or deny them their rights, and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone.”

Irwan then says everybody has the right to the same education, but then contradicts himself immediately by saying that “Unand’s students have the rights to feel secure from sexual perversion”, excluding LGBT students from the equal right to education based on his homophobic belief that all LGBT individuals are sexual predators.

He then says that LGBT students could attend the school if they return to “normal” (in an apparent attempt to epitomize hetero-normative bigotry) by attending gay conversion counseling (which has been proven, again and again, to not be a real thing).

Finally, he compares members of the LGBT minority group to drugs… We hope we don’t have to explain to you the innumerable reasons why that’s wrong.

The governor’s support helped to make #JagaSumbarDariLGBT (Protect West Sumatra from LGBT) a trending topic on Twitter briefly earlier this week.

Unand’s chancellor Tafdil continues to defend his school’s policy as well, telling Jawa Pos News Network yesterday, “[LGBT] bring their disease upon themselves, do not transmit it to others. If you invite others to become LGBT, do not attend Unand.”

If President Joko Widodo wants to show he has any seriousness about protecting the educational rights of all Indonesian citizens, denouncing Unand’s discriminatory policy would be a good place to start.

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