The Indonesian city of Depok has announced it will set up a “taskforce” to curb the activities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, raising fears of a fresh crackdown on sexual minorities in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Muhammad Idris, deputy mayor of Depok, a satellite city of the capital, Jakarta, announced the plan on Monday, specifying that the 200-strong force, including police officers, social service workers and religious leaders, would “anticipate the spread of LGBT” among young people.
The move comes amid a nationwide crackdown on sexual minorities and increasing reports of the harassment of members of the LGBT community, including a high profile raid last October on a “gay spa” in Jakarta, during which 51 men were arrested.
Earlier this month, United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, criticised proposals in Indonesia’s parliament to criminalise gay sex and extramarital sex.
Legislators are currently debating revisions to a Dutch colonial-era criminal code, including proposals to outlaw sex outside marriage, same-sex relations, and co-habitation, all of which were previously unregulated by law.
Mr Zeid raised the fear that the proposed amendments could be used to target the LGBT community further.
“Discussions of (revisions) betray strains of intolerance seemingly alien to Indonesian culture that have made inroads here,” he said.
“The hateful rhetoric against the LGBT community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions,” he said.
The changes to the criminal code have broad support in parliament where few politicians have defended LGBT rights for fear of upsetting a largely conservative voter base ahead of legislative and presidential elections next year.
The increasingly hostile environment for the LGBT community reflects fears of the growing Islamisation of the Muslim-majority country of 267 million, which has historically been known for its religious tolerance.
In Depok, the deputy mayor stressed that the creation of the new taskforce was for religious rather than legal reasons, because of the threat to religious morality.
“We have created an integrated team to handle LGBT, we will collaborate with police and mass organisations,” he said in comments reported by the Coconuts news website.
“Religion has agreed that LGBT acts are forbidden, so legally we will overcome this problem so that it will not spread,” he said.
Depok is not the first place to instigate an LGBT taskforce. Last May, police in Indonesia’s most populous province of West Java deployed a similar team.
Meanwhile, homosexuality is outlawed in the deeply conservative province of Aceh, where gay men have been publicly flogged after being caught in consensual relationships.
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