Metro Weekly

UN human rights chief: Intolerance toward LGBTQ people shows “dark clouds” growing in Indonesia

UN rights chief warns that political extremism and intolerance are rising, as government cracks down on LGBTQ people

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein — Photo: UN Geneva / Flickr

The United Nations’ human rights chief has warned that Indonesia’s anti-LGBTQ laws are creating “dark clouds” of intolerance.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein pointed to planned legislation to criminalize gay sex as evidence of growing intolerance.

“If Muslim societies expect others to fight against Islamophobia, we should be prepared to end discrimination at home too,” said Mr al-Hussein, who is also Muslim.

Politicians and religious organizations from Indonesia have regularly discriminated against the LGBTQ community. All of Indonesian’s major political parties have drafted and agreed to a new criminal code that will allow authorities to jail LGBTQ people.

Al-Hussein said that such extremism is “alien to Indonesian culture.”

“The extremist views playing out in the political arena are deeply worrying,” he said, “accompanied as they are by rising levels of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence.”

Last year, two gay men were publicly caned after neighbors burst into their home and found them together, marking the first time that gay men have been flogged under Sharia law in the province.

And just last week, a group of transgender women had their heads shaved by police and were forced to wear male clothing, state media reported.

In an additional blow to the LGBTQ community, Google removed one of the world’s largest gay dating apps from its Indonesian app store after receiving pressure from the government.

Al-Hussein said Indonesia’s LGBTQ people face intimidation from “hateful rhetoric against this community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes [that] will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions.”

Despite this, al-Hussein said that he is hopeful that “common sense” will prevail.

“There are some dark clouds on the horizon,” he said, “but I am encouraged by the positive momentum and hope the common sense and strong tradition of tolerance of the Indonesian people will prevail over populism and political opportunism.”

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