Thousands attend anti-LGBT rally in W. Sumatra, authorities promise harsh laws to stop spread of ‘virus’

Protesters in the West Sumatra City of Payakumbuh on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo: Irsyad Syafar / Facebook

Anti-LGBT hysteria seems to have once again taken hold in some parts of Indonesia, with near daily stories of authorities fanning the flames of hatred with discriminatory acts towards the vilified minority group. Many of these stories are coming from West Sumatra, with one city in the region recently seeing a massive anti-LGBT protest followed by promises from regional authorities that they would criminalize LGBT behavior with harsh punishments.

Local media reports estimate that around 20,000-30,000 people came out on Sunday to the streets of Payakumbuh, West Sumatra’s second largest city, for a demonstration they called Anti-Community Diseases Declaration. Those “diseases” included gambling, alcohol, “free sex” and drugs, but much of the event’s focus was on LGBT.


Posted by Irsyad Syafar on Monday, November 5, 2018

After the rally, Payakumbuh Mayor Riza Falepi said that he promised to act on the demands of citizens by pushing for legislation that would criminalize LGBT behavior, which he referred to as a “virus”.

“Soon I will take action [to criminalize LGBT]. There is a clear push from the public to battle the LGBT virus. LGBT perpetrators in Payakumbuh, immediately leave. If not, I will sanction you criminally,” Riza said as quoted by Covesia.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia (except in North Sumatra’s Aceh, the only region of Indonesia with special autonomy to enact explicitly sharia-based law) but in many parts of the country, 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 recently detained by police in the Padang).

But even that isn’t enough to satisfy anti-LGBT authorities such as Riza, who said that local laws needed to be strengthened to combat LGBT. The Payakumbuh mayor said Sunday’s community declaration would strengthen the government’s efforts so that LGBT individuals would think long and hard about coming to their city and spreading their “virus”.

In addition to promising their criminalization, Riza also said that they would provide budgetary funds for night patrols so that authorities could monitor LGBT behavior throughout the city.

Payakumbuh is far from the only place in West Sumatra where authorities are planning to criminalize LGBT individuals. Officials in the city of Pariaman are discussing the use of customary law (hukum adat) punishment such as forcing LGBT individuals to pay fines with buffaloes or be ostracized and expelled from their villages.

The deputy governor for all of West Sumatra, Nasrul Abit, also suggested that customary law in the form of nagari regulations (nagari referring to the administrative units for villages in West Sumatra) would be the most effective way to sanction LGBT individuals.

“The sanctions can be rooted in local cultural customs. For example, by parading perpetrators around the village and giving material fines. The point is that it can provide a deterrent effect,” Nasrul Abit said on Wednesday as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.

Although efforts by conservative parties to criminalize LGBT behavior at the national level stalled out earlier this year, senior political figures such as Deputy House Speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid from the Islam-based PKS party continue to push for the discriminatory legislation.

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.  Amnesty International also released a report this week saying that the country’s crackdowns on the LGBT community have “hit alarming level”.

Editor’s note: The sentence “Officials in the city of Pariaman are discussing the use of customary law (hukum adat) punishment such as forcing LGBT individuals to pay fines with buffaloes or be ostracized and expelled from their villages” was corrected to change the word “perpetrators” to “individuals”. The word perpetrator was used to convey the language that was used by officials, but its use by us — outside of a direct quote or without further qualification — was a mistake as it could be misconstrued to mean that we agree with the idea that being LGBT can be considered a crime, something we at Coconuts Media emphatically disagree with. We sincerely appreciate the feedback from the reader who pointed this out to us and apologize for any offensive the original sentence may have caused.

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