Indonesia’s president has finally defended the LGBT community.
Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, has made his first public comments against growing homophobic and transphobic climate for gay, bi and trans people.
‘The police must act [to protect them],’ Jokowi told the BBC. There should be no discrimination against anyone.’
Jokowi qualified his statement in support of LGBT rights by stating that ‘in Indonesia, beliefs [generally] do not allow [LGBT], Islam does not allow it.’
His words may go unnoticed as there are growing calls in the government to ‘crack down’ against the LGBT community.
In the past year, politicians have made several efforts to isolate and marginalize LGBT people.
Gay dating apps and effeminate men on television have both been banned under the guide of ‘protecting children’ and enforcing pornography laws.
Homosexuality and transgender are now considered a ‘mental disorder’ that can be ‘cured’.
Last week, the government posted an advert calling for youth ambassadors but said LGBT people need not apply.
And this week, Indonesia passed a new law authorizing chemical castration in an effort to ‘wipe out’ sex crimes. There are fears this may be used against the LGBT community.
Politicians have also requested social networks like Twitter and Facebook to remove emoticons depicting same-sex couples.
There have been growing calls to criminalize gay sex entirely.
‘Jokowi’s statement in defense of the rights of LGBT people is long overdue,’ Phelim Kine, for Human Rights Watch, said. ‘Jokowi needs the political courage to demonstrate that such “beliefs” can’t and won’t trump his obligation to defend the rights of all Indonesians.
‘That will require going beyond rhetorical support for LGBT rights by moving decisively to roll back discriminatory language and initiatives by government agencies, including the Youth and Sports Ministry.
‘Only by using the power of his office can Jokowi ensure that Indonesia’s LGBT community is no longer threatened, discriminated against, or physically attacked by government officials or anyone else.’