West Java police arrest 5 men for holding ‘gay sex party’ in private villa using pornography law

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While LGBT and human rights defenders in Indonesia celebrate a small victory in December, when the Constitutional Court rejected a petition that would’ve made homosexual acts (and all forms of consensual sex outside of marriage) illegal, recent arrests show that Indonesian authorities do not need a clear legal basis to justify criminalizing homosexuality when they can just twist the country’s ambiguously worded pornography law towards that purpose.

On Saturday night, police in Cianjur, West Java, arrested five men for holding what they and the Indonesian media termed a “gay sex party” at a private villa in Cipanas.

Police said they found out about the event after investigating a dating app used by “sexually deviant men” and learned about the event taking place in the villa.

Cianjur Police said the oldest of the men arrested was 50 while the youngest, still technically a minor, was 16. When they raided the villa, they said the men were undressed and they found “evidence” including condoms, lubricant, drugs and alcohol.

While the presence of an underage boy is troubling, police did not make the arrests based on charges of statutory rape. And they were, of course, not arrested for homosexual acts since Indonesia has no such law (except in the sharia-enforcing province of Aceh). So, what were they charged with?

“The perpetrators will be charged with violating Article 36 of Law number 44/2008 on pornography, with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of Rp 5 billion,” Cianjur police chief Soliyah told CNN Indonesia.

 

Article 36 of the pornography law specifically applies to “any person displaying himself or any other person in a public performance or display depicting nudity, sexual exploitation, coercion or other pornographic actions”.

As with other similar police raids on private events last year, authorities seems to have blurred the definition of public in the pornography law to such a degree that any sexual acts between consenting adults in a private residence could be considered criminally pornographic.

Last year, West Java police chief Anton Charliyan announced plans to create a task force targeting LGBT Indonesians living in the region, saying they suffered a “disease of the body and soul” and calling on the public to report their activities.

Members of the LGBT community in Indonesia have faced increasing levels of persecution since a moral panic over gay rights erupted in 2016, with homophobic hysteria perpetuated through hoaxes and legitimized by governmental authorities.

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