fa Indonesia at flashpoint over gay rights
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Last week the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission banned radio and television stations from airing any program that portrayed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender behaviour as normal.

The ban reportedly followed a meeting with the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, which was concerned about the increasing number of television programs starring members of the LGBT community, such as Dorce, who had a sex change operation decades ago.

Indonesian Child Protection Commission spokeswoman Erlinda told the Jakarta Post many young boys were starting to cross dress or adopt feminine characteristics because they had been "brainwashed" by these television programs.

It's difficult to pick the most bizarre anti-gay statement coming out of the moral panic  now engulfing Indonesia.

Was it the Communications and Information Ministry asking messaging apps to censor same-sex emojis – colourful icons featuring rainbow flags and men skipping in fields of flowers – because they could lead to public unrest?

Or parliamentarian Effendi Simbolon opposing a plan to waive tourist visa fees for 76 countries, in part, because it could facilitate the spread of LGBT culture in Indonesia.

"Including LGBT, all that is considered a threat is no longer outside the fence but already inside our house. Why wasn't this considered when waiving free visas?" Effendi lamented in Parliament.

This outburst followed days of inflammatory anti-gay statements from public officials, triggered by outrage over a brochure on counselling distributed by a gay support group at the University of Indonesia.

First Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir​ said publicly affectionate gay students should be banned from university campuses.

Then Vice-President Jusuf Kalla asked the United Nations Development Program not to finance LGBT programs in Indonesia.

Indonesia's most influential Muslim leaders said on Wednesday that they reject all promotion and support for lesbian and gay groups and encouraged the government to make gay sex and the promotion of LGBT activities illegal. The statement by the Indonesian Ulema Council and leaders of other Islamic organisations followed the government's move on Monday urging the U.N. Development Program to deny funding to programmes regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government respected individual rights of sexual expression, "but it is wrong to encourage other people ... and to campaign for legalisation of same-sex marriage."

The council's statement said the clerics and other Muslim leaders supported the government's rejection of foreign funding of LGBT causes and they called for bans on promoting and funding LGBT activities in Indonesia.

The UNDP's representatives in Jakarta could not be reached for comment.

Most of Indonesian society is tolerant, but homosexuality is a sensitive issue and leaders in Indonesia's secular government have made high-profile attempts to dim LGBT visibility. It recently told instant messaging apps to remove stickers featuring same-sex couples, while a government minister last month said openly gay students should be banned from the University of Indonesia campuses. Some people worry that overseas funding could encourage a campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in the country.

Activist Poedjiati of Gaya Nusantara, an LGBT advocacy group, said it is clearly a human rights violation to ban and criminalise their activities. She also did not see any chance for the country to move toward same-sex marriage.

"So far no one here ever talked about that," Poedjiati, who uses a single name, told journalists. "The issue of such marriage is still very, very far for Indonesia."    (AP)

20.02.2016
 
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