Intolerance towards LGBT individuals has been on the rise recently in Indonesia and, while the government hasn’t criminalized homosexuality yet (except in the highly conservative region of Aceh), many government officials have made statements or instituted policies aimed at discriminating against sexual minorities.
In the latest disturbing instance of an Indonesian government institution encouraging intolerance towards the LGBT community, the government of West Java’s Cianjur regency recently released a circular to the region’s mosques asking that they present sermons about the “dangers” of LGBT and HIV/AIDS this Friday.
The instructions were detailed in Cianjur Regency Circular Number 400/5368 which was received by CNN Indonesia and other local media outlets.
The circular says the sermon request is due to a report by the Cianjur District AIDS Commission that indicated the LGBT population in Cianjur had recently increased significantly.
The circular, which it says is to be disseminated to all of the regency’s districts and villages, was signed by Cianjur Deputy Regent Herman Suherman on behalf of the Cianjur Regent Irvan Rivano Muchtar and dated October 15, 2018.
In addition to containing instructions, the circular also includes six pages of sermon texts entitled “The Dangers of LGBT, Sodomy and Abuse in terms of Religious Life, the Nation and the State from the Perspective of Islamic Law”.
Cianjur Regency Government head spokesperson Gagan Rusganda confirmed the authenticity of the circular.
“Yes. The Circular was issued by the Cianjur Regency Government as one of the efforts to overcome the spread of LGBT in our region,” Gagan confirmed to CNN Indonesia on Wednesday.
Gagan said that the Cianjur administration had coordinated with a number of institutions related to the circular including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) of Cianjur and representatives of the Ministry of Religion.
“Of course the negative impact of LGBT is our concern and the people in our region do not want it to continue to grow and develop,” Gagan said, adding that the report from the Cianjur District AIDS Commission indicated there were as many as 3,452 gay men in the regency.
While the spread of HIV/AIDS is indeed a serious problem in some parts of Indonesia, activists and health experts argue that the rise in intolerance and state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBT community is helping to fuel the problem by forcing gay men further underground and out of the reach of HIV outreach and prevention programs.
This latest troubling example of government-sponsored intolerance came on the same day that Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, released a video that he said was a clarification in response to rumors that he supported LGBT.
— Kementerian Agama RI (@Kemenag_RI) October 16, 2018
In the video, which carries the title “Religious Affairs Ministry Rejects LGBT”, he repeats the justification used by many Indonesians that all religions reject LGBT (a statement which is wrong for many reasons) and says that while he rejects LGBT behavior he believes they should still be treated with empathy so that they can be convinced to change their sinful ways.
Previously, Lukman had publicly said that LGBT citizens should be embraced, not shunned, but even that tepid defense led to a backlash against him and his ministry.