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Dede Oetomo
Homophobia remains a problem in Indonesia: Scholar

in INDONESIA, 10/06/2012

As the world marked the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on Thursday, one sociologist pointed to recent situations as evidence that homophobia remains high in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslims country.

Dede Oetomo, a sociologist from Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, said, “It was very painful to see a number of Indonesians still shamelessly harassed people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or LGBT community at the dawn of the commemoration.”

The international day was founded at the 2006 International Homosexual and Human Rights Activist Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Dede added, however, that there was still a positive side to the situation, referring to his high hopes for the delegation from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that will review the human rights situation in Indonesia from May 21 to June 4.
“I bet they will evaluate the recent condition in the country, particularly the fact that the authorities have washed their hands of this situation,” the gay rights activist Dede told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Introduced in 2006, the quadrennial review is a part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to evaluate the human rights records of the UN’s 192 member nations.

A book discussion featuring Canadian writer Irshad Manji at the Salihara cultural center in Jakarta on May 5 was interrupted by metropolitan authorities who claimed that the event’s organizer did not have a permit to invite a foreign national.

However, dozens of people claiming to be local residents who protested the event claimed that their rejection of Manji, who is openly gay, was because they viewed her opinion that Islam should accept homosexuality as “unacceptable”.

Last Wednesday in Yogyakarta, a similar discussion with Manji was disrupted when a mob representing the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) raided the LKiS (Social and Islamic Studies Institute) Foundation office, and assaulted participants, denouncing Manji for being open about being a lesbian.
The police have yet to arrest the assailants.

Hard-liner groups in the country also denounced American pop diva Lady Gaga, who is slated to perform in Jakarta on June 3, saying that the controversial singer “indulges in pornography by wearing revealing clothes.”

Law enforcement agencies stated that they would not issue the concert’s organizer a permit to hold the event.


Lady Gaga, who is known for her advocacy for gay rights issues in her music, launched her non-profit organization The Born This Way Foundation in March of this year. The foundation focuses on preventing bullying among youth, including the LBGT community.
Workshops on LGBT issues in the country have also been attacked by hard-line groups.

Munarman, spokesman of the notorious Islam Defenders Front (FPI), insisted that “not a single religion in the world endorses lesbianism or homosexuality.”

“If there are people who support lesbianism and homosexuality, they are demented and sick people. Let’s say that there is someone who promotes corruption practices, wouldn’t people reject him?” he said in a respond to the Post’s query.

Commenting on this, Dede, who is a candidate for a position on Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said that he still believed many Indonesian citizens would tolerate the existence of LGBT people.

“For instance, most Indonesians would still go to the beauty salon even if the beauticians are transvestites. I am also optimistic that many youngsters in this country will accept the community in the future years,” he said. (asa)

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