“Today, in France, we still cannot live and love freely just as we are,” said Joël Deumier, president of the association SOS Homophobie. In its annual report published May 10, 2017, the organization stated it received 1,575 testimonies of anti-LGBT acts in 2016, an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous year. It’s possible that the increase in reported incidents reflects a greater willingness of victims to speak out. Still, SOS Homophobie believes that many victims of anti-LGBT acts do not dare come forward.

Demonstration in support of same-sex marriage in Paris, 16 December 2012.

© 2012 Olivier Hoffschir

In 2016, SOS Homophobie received 26 reports from people who said they had a homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic encounter with justice or law enforcement officials. By this is meant that an officer refused to characterize an assault as homophobic in a complaint or to even file a complaint, or that a law enforcement officer himself discriminated against LGBT people.

While these incidents remain thankfully limited, they are no less unacceptable. France should take measures to determine how widespread these attitudes are among public officials, and to prevent subversion of their duties because of this attitude.

SOS Homophobie’s report also shows a correlation between debates over equal rights and the increase of anti-LGBT acts. The organization recorded a spike in reported incidents in 2013, the year France legalized same-sex marriage. In 2016, France adopted a law waiving the requirement for transgender people to provide proof of medical treatment to amend their legal gender. That same year saw a 76% spike in reported transphobic incidents.

While a majority of the French population is in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married and adopt children, opponents of LGBT rights are a “vocal minority,” and are especially active on social media, where prosecution for homophobic statements remains difficult to carry out.

Several candidates for the 2017 presidential election expressed their intention to “rewrite the Taubira law” on same-sex marriage and adoption. One candidate even received the support of Sens commun, an organization openly opposed to the rights of LGBT people. When political figures take stands that are hostile to equal rights, they may “rekindle hate.”

It is high time to end discrimination against LGBT people and the French authorities have a key responsibility and role to turn this into reality.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

This week Poland’s parliament has the chance to improve the lives of transgender people by passing a law that simplifies the legal gender recognition procedure.

Recognition before the law in your preferred gender is a vital aspect of ensuring respect for the human rights of transgender people. For example, it allows transgender people to access services on an equal footing with their peers.

Transgender activists march in the 2015 Warsaw Pride holding a banner that reads "YES to Gender Accordance Act.”

© 2015 Trans-Fuzja

Momentum on this matter is building. Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a resolution noting “the emergence of a right to gender identity”, while raising concerns that “transgender people face widespread discrimination in Europe.”

Members of Poland’s parliament will consider the country’s Act on Gender Recognition this Friday. Parliament already passed the draft legislation over the summer, although the president vetoed it last week.

The act proposes some important advances.

First, it defines gender identity as a “settled and intense experience of one’s own gender,” which may or may not correspond with one's sex assigned at birth.

Second, it eliminates the requirement for physical interventions before gender can be legally recognized, and instead makes the process a court procedure.

Third, it spells out the various documents on which applicants are legally entitled to change their gender – including education certificates, work qualifications, and health records – and allows the possibility for young transgender people, once they reach age 16, to change their name.

Access to documents in your preferred gender and name is a key element in ensuring respect for an individual’s right to personal and private life, and also allows transgender people better access to healthcare, education, and employment.

In a recent survey, 78 percent of Polish transgender people said quicker and easier legal gender recognition procedures would allow them to live more comfortably.

There’s no doubt President Andrzej Duda’s recent veto of the act was a setback. But if parliament does vote in majority support of the legislation, Poland will take a huge step forward and transform the lives of many.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, is an expert on LGBT rights. He has conducted research, taught and published extensively on gender, sexuality, LGBT issues, and HIV/AIDS.

Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2011, Reid was the founding director of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research and a lecturer in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies at Yale University. An anthropologist by training, Reid received an master’s from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A library worker indexes periodicals at the Hong Kong Central Library May 14, 2001. In 2018, Hong Kong authorities made a decision to place 10 children's books with LGBT themes in the "closed stacks" of public libraries. 

©2001 Reuters/Bobby Yip

Hong Kong authorities should immediately reverse a decision to place 10 children’s books with LGBT themes in the “closed stacks” of public libraries, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Hong Kong’s Home Affairs Bureau. One of the books, And Tango Makes Three, is a children’s book based on a true story about two male penguins who hatch an egg and raise a youngster.

But in an important judgment on same-sex relationships, Hong Kong’s highest court ruled on July 4, 2018, that the government’s denial of a visa and associated benefits to the same-sex spouse of a legal resident amounted to discrimination.

“Instead of hiding a children’s book about a same-sex penguin couple, Hong Kong’s government should endorse nondiscrimination and put the books back on the open shelves,” said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “While Hong Kong’s highest court is taking down discriminatory walls, the government seems intent on maintaining them.”

In correspondence Human Rights Watch reviewed dated June 15, 2018, Hong Kong’s Home Affairs Department responded to a citizens’ group complaint regarding 10 children’s books that feature diverse families and gender expressions. The Home Affairs Department noted that “the contents of seven of these books are neutral, and do not promote or advocate homosexuality and same-sex marriage.” Nonetheless, authorities within the Home Affairs Department proceeded to order that all 10 books be placed in the “closed stacks,” meaning library visitors will need to request a librarian to access the books. 

Hiding books from free public access which feature lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) characters sends a stigmatizing message that LGBT content is inherently inappropriate. The government’s actions also deprive children of information that could be important to their development, health, and safety, Human Rights Watch said.

The decision indicates a government preference to exclude and discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Another of the books, Introducing Teddy, tells the story of a stuffed bear who identifies as a girl and wants to be called Tilly instead of Thomas. Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says, “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”

“LGBT children, who are subject to disproportionate rates of bullying and often experience feelings of isolation and alienation, need reliable, accurate, and affirming information,” Dittrich said. “The Hong Kong government should be working to create a climate of inclusion and tolerance for children and adults – not exclusion and stigma.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk arrive for a joint news conference following the EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev, Ukraine, July 13, 2017. © 2017 REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

On 9 July, Brussels will host the 20th EU-Ukraine Summit, the annual exercise when Kyiv and the European block highlight their strong bilateral relations. No doubt, the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and European Union leaders will follow the usual united front.

But they will also most likely have in mind that this summit is special. There might be some new faces in the family picture next year, as both parties will face tough elections by then, with the presidential election in Ukraine next March and the election of a new European Parliament less than two months later.

In this context, next week’s meeting will be a test of the EU’s will and capacity to promote a truly democratic Ukraine. But it will require EU leaders to go beyond business as usual and get honest with Kyiv. So far, the EU rhetoric has been supportive: Kyiv must continue reforms, which would bring it closer to the EU politically and economically, as Federica Mogherini said just a week ago in Copenhagen. But when it comes to respect for the rule of law and human rights, the EU finds it a lot easier to address violations in the conflict-affected eastern Ukraine and Russia-occupied Crimea than to call out Ukrainian authorities on human rights abuses in the rest of the country. 

To be clear, Ukraine has been devastated by Russia’s military incursions in Donbas and occupation of Crimea. Despite that, the country has made profound strides in transforming some of its political institutions and practices. However, in the past two years, Ukraine has taken several steps backward on media freedom and free association, and it has done little in the face of rising hate violence, without drawing much alarm or protest from the EU. The government’s backtracking might worsen if it chooses nationalist expediency in next year’s elections. The EU should take these disturbing actions seriously.

These are three things Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk should stress to Petro Poroshenko.

First, there should be no restrictions on media freedom in Ukraine. 

The Ukrainian government tries to justify these restrictions by pointing to the need to counter Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine and anti-Ukraine propaganda. The EU needs to be absolutely clear that this is not an acceptable reason to curtail free speech and intimidate journalists. At least two journalists are in prison on treason charges for comments critical of government policies on eastern Ukraine. 

Several foreign journalists, mostly Russian citizens, have been banned or expelled from Ukraine. Most of Russian media’s coverage of events in Ukraine is hard to stomach. But banning journalists for anti-Ukraine coverage should not be Kyiv’s preferred way to combat Russia’s formidable propaganda machine. Fighting fakes with facts and transparency is what will help Kyiv to keep its integrity and avoid using the same methods as the Kremlin. 

Which is why protecting free speech and the work of journalists should be a priority. Yet, the killers of Oles Buzina and Pavel Sheremet, Ukrainian journalists killed in 2015 and 2016 respectively, are still at large years later, despite numerous public pledges by Poroshenko himself to bring Sheremet’s killers to justice. 

Second, the EU should be genuinely concerned by the authorities’ attempts to curb independent watchdogs

When President Poroshenko signed a March 2017 law to force activists and journalists investigating corruption to publicly declare their personal assets or face prison if they refuse to comply – an intrusive and unnecessary measure that would largely deter any anti-corruption work in the country – Ukraine’s international partners rightly stood up and told Poroshenko that it was a terrible idea. Over a year later the law is now in full effect, despite the president’s promises to get rid of it. 

Worse, two presidential draft proposals before parliament would impose new public reporting obligations on all nonprofit organisations. These proposals are shockingly out of line with principles Ukraine subscribed to when joining the Council of Europe and would jeopardise Ukrainian nongovernmental groups’ security and capacity to operate. European Union officials frequently voice their support for Ukraine’s civil society. Now they need to remind Ukrainian authorities that strangling independent groups with unnecessary and onerous measures is not the right thing to do to get closer to Europe.

Finally, European Union leaders should condemn the government’s inaction over growing attacks by violent radical groups.

On 23 June, a group of ultranationalists attacked a Roma settlement near Lviv, killing one person and injuring several more, including a child. This was the sixth recent anti-Roma attack. On 8 March, International Women’s Day, radical groups attacked the Women’s March in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine, physically assaulting participants. On 10 May, threats of violence by radical groups disrupted an LGBTI rights event hosted by Amnesty International. Ukrainian authorities rarely investigate such attacks, and more often than not, police stand by and do nothing, despite resources and police training provided by the EU.

Ukraine is at a pivotal moment. If the EU truly wants to see a reliable and confident partner in Ukraine, it needs to consistently encourage President Poroshenko to foster genuinely democratic reform, rather than turning a blind eye to radical violence in the name of political expedience. The EU cannot say it fully supports Ukraine’s future if it’s looking the other way when Ukrainian authorities waver on core European values.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump's address to a Joint Session of Congress in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

President Donald Trump is set to announce his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who will step down this summer after 30 years on the bench. A swing vote on a deeply divided court, Kennedy sided with the majority on many troubling decisions but was also a key figure in several that advanced human rights protections, including on gay rights, abortion rights, and affirmative action.

In Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law prohibiting same-sex sexual activity. It was a 6-3 ruling with Kennedy writing the majority opinion. It invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in all US states.

Ten years later, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman for federal purposes.

In 2015, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and was the swing vote in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark ruling making same sex marriage legal across the US. 

Not all decisions on gay rights where Kennedy wrote the majority opinion were clear victories for LGBT people. In the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case involving a baker who objected to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the Supreme Court ruled for the baker. Kennedy wrote for a 7-2 majority, in a decision so narrowly framed that it isn’t clear how broad a precedent it actually sets. The ruling was a deep disappointment to many supporters of LGBT equality. Kennedy did take pains, though, to emphasize in his opinion that  “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”

Although Kennedy has not always taken positions that advanced the rights of LGBT people, women, and minority groups, when he has done so it has often been transformative. Now some of the rights he helped drive the court to embrace and uphold, like abortion and marriage equality, may face an existential threat. Trump has signalled a pro-life litmus test for any potential candidate to replace Kennedy. When the Senate gathers to consider Trump’s nominee, they need to remember that some of the United States’ most important advances in equality and human rights protection hinge on the court’s decisions.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

“Jina,” a 22-year-old transgender woman, sports a tattoo of a butterfly—a transgender symbol signifying transformation: “There’s a lot of politicization of the LGBT community at the moment, to distract the public from more important issues.”

© 2014 Javad Tizmaghz for Human Rights Watch

When the news broke last week that a 41-year-old man from Kelantan had married an 11-year-old girl, alarm bells went off in Malaysia’s newly elected government as well as among nongovernmental groups. The Kelantan state police started an investigation, and activists stepped up calls to legislate a minimum marriage age of 18, with no exceptions.  

But some politicians saw the issue differently. Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, the deputy head of government in Kelantan state, which is ruled by the opposition Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said child marriage should not be “sensationalized” and does not violate religious principles. “The issue of zina [sex outside marriage], children born out of wedlock, gays and lesbians, are bigger issues for the country,” he said.  

Bigger issues for whom? Human Rights Watch has thoroughly documented the impacts of child marriage on girls around the world: married girls are more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty, and to be victims of domestic violence, compared to women who marry after age 18. Child marriages often result in early pregnancy, which carries serious health risks - including death - for both girls and their babies.  

Not only do Mohd Amar’s comments belittle girls’ rights, they also reinforce homophobic views. The recently ousted Barisan Nasional government enforced discriminatory laws and promoted hostility towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak described LGBT people as “against Islam”; his deputy prime minister equated LGBT people with “negative values”; and the Health Ministry organized a competition according to which adolescents were to submit videos on how to “prevent” LGBT identities

Law enforcement officials from state religious departments regularly arrest transgender women, subjecting many to degrading treatment. During a visit to Malaysia in April I interviewed LGBT people who described experiencing depression and even attempting suicide because of feeling that they don’t belong in their country.   

The newly elected government, under Mahathir Mohamed, has an opportunity – and a responsibility – to remedy the entrenchment of state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia that started during Mahathir’s previous stint as prime minister. It can do so by publicly condemning discriminatory comments like Mohd Amar’s and making clear that LGBT people are not an “issue” to contend with, but a group of people whose rights are entitled to be respected. The government should reject the Najib government’s practice of demonizing LGBT people to distract attention from governance failures, begin discussion of overturning federal and state anti-LGBT laws, and focus on fighting the real scourges in Malaysian society, such as child marriage. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am


On May 21, 2017, police in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, raided the Atlantis gym and sauna, arresting 141 people, most of whom were gay or bisexual men. Ten were ultimately prosecuted under Indonesia’s pornography law. The Atlantis was not just a “gay club,” but a public health outreach center—a well-known hub for HIV education, testing, and counseling among men who have sex with men (MSM).

In the media, the raid was just the latest “anti-LGBT incident.” Since early 2016, many senior government officials had made that four-letter acronym a toxic symbol, the focus of an unprecedented rhetorical attack on Indonesian sexual and gender minorities. Officials used the letters to signal a group of societal outsiders; some even construed the visibility of “LGBT” as threat to the Indonesian nation itself.  

There were at least six similar raids on private spaces in 2017, and more in early 2018. Each followed a pattern: vigilantism against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people provided social sanction for abusive police action; vague and discriminatory provisions in the law empowered authorities to violate the privacy rights of people presumed to be LGBT; the venues raided were places where LGBT Indonesians believed they could gather safely and privately, to learn about health issues, make friends, and build community. All told, police in Indonesia apprehended at least 300 LGBT people in 2017 alone because of their sexual orientation and gender identity—a spike from previous years and the highest such number ever recorded in Indonesia. The pattern of these raids suggests a systematic crackdown on LGBT rights, and their impact portends a public health crisis.

This report—based largely on 48 in-depth interviews in Java, Kalimantan, and Sumatra in 2017 with victims and witnesses, health workers, and activists—updates a Human Rights Watch report from August 2016 that documented the sharp rise in anti-LGBT attacks and rhetoric that began in January of that year. It provides an account of major incidents between November 2016 and March 2018 and examines the far-reaching impact of this anti-LGBT “moral panic” on the lives of sexual and gender minorities and the serious consequences for public health in the country.

While Indonesia has made inroads on the spread of HIV in a number of areas, HIV rates among MSM have increased five-fold since 2007, according to government and UNAIDS data. And while the majority of new HIV infections in Indonesia occur through heterosexual transmission, one-third of new infections occur in MSM. In major urban centers such as Denpasar in Bali and Jakarta, the MSM epidemic is even more prevalent with nearly one in three MSM infected with HIV.  One particularly troubling aspect of the anti-LGBT panic, detailed below, is that public health outreach to such populations has become far more difficult, making wider spread of the disease more likely.


As noted above, conditions in Indonesia today can be traced to a nationwide anti-LGBT “moral panic” that began in early 2016. Over the course of several weeks in January and February 2016, anti-LGBT statements ranging from the absurd to the apocalyptic echoed through Indonesia’s media: at a maternal health seminar, a mayor warned young mothers off instant noodles—their time and attention, he said, should be given instead to nutritious cooking and teaching their children how not to be gay. The National Child Protection Commission issued a decree against “gay propaganda” and called for censorship. The national professional association for psychiatrists proclaimed same-sex sexual orientation and transgender identities as “mental illnesses.” The Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organization, called for criminal penalties for LGBT behavior and activism, and forced “rehabilitation” for LGBT people. And perhaps most perniciously, Indonesia’s minister of defense labeled LGBT rights activism a proxy war on the nation led by outsiders:

It's dangerous as we can't see who our foes are, but out of the blue everyone is brainwashed—now the [LGBT] community is demanding more freedom, it really is a threat…. In a nuclear war, if a bomb is dropped over Jakarta, Semarang will not be affected—but in a proxy war, everything we know could disappear in an instant—it's dangerous.

Veteran Indonesia expert Professor Edward Aspinall observed that Indonesia’s anti-LGBT crisis, “[is] one of those issues in this age of very rapid electronic media and social media where it really just spiraled to become this major moral panic to engulf the country.”

That outpouring of intolerance sparked new legislative proposals—by independent groups as well as lawmakers—to censor LGBT content in the media, end “LGBT campaigning” (without defining it), and criminalize adult consensual same-sex conduct. One of the most high-profile efforts in this regard took place at the Constitutional Court. In July 2016, petitioners led by the Family Love Alliance, an anti-LGBT coalition based in the city of Bogor, petitioned the Constitutional Court to effectively amend clauses in Indonesia’s criminal code on adultery, rape, and sex with a minor to criminalize all sex outside of marriage and all sex between persons of the same sex, regardless of age. While the petition failed, the battle has now moved into the house of representatives with similar proposals put forward by various parties. The government representative on the parliamentary task force on revising the criminal code has expressed opposition to outright criminalization of same-sex conduct. However, sex outside of marriage remains a criminal offense in the draft, and the speaker of the house of representatives has stated publicly that, “We must not fear or succumb to outside pressure and threats that banning LGBT practices will decrease foreign tourism. What we must prioritize is the safety of nation's future, particularly the safety of our youth from influences that go against norms, culture and religion.”

The anti-LGBT moral panic simultaneously spilled over from government institutions into wider society. In January 2018, the Twitter feed of the Indonesian air force went on a bizarre and hateful anti-LGBT screed. The air force has failed to publicly provide any details about the incident or to confirm or deny its support for such discriminatory invective. There were also social media protests and threats of boycotts against Starbucks in Indonesia for its CEO’s 2013 statement in support of same-sex marriage, and Unilever for its distribution of a rainbow ice cream product.

In perhaps the most telling indicator of how politically superficial but socially profound the anti-LGBT campaign had been, opinion data trends showed peculiar results. A 2016 opinion poll showed that 26 percent of Indonesians disliked LGBT people—making them the most disliked group in the country, overtaking the historical placeholders: communists and Jewish people. A similar poll in 2017 showed an even greater proportion of Indonesians responding negatively to questions about LGBT people. Additionally, the survey found that more Indonesians feared LGBT people than could define the acronym or the population it referred to.

A handful of senior officials have made statements or taken initial steps in support of some protections for LGBT people’s basic rights. In September 2017, in response to a request from the National Commission on Human Rights, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced that it had rescinded a job notice that barred LGBT applicants. However, the AGO undermined that defense of LGBT rights by suggesting homosexuality was a “mental illness.” In February 2018, national police chief Tito Karnavian ordered an investigation into a series of raids on transgender-owned beauty parlors in Aceh province, resulting in the local police apologizing. The chief who oversaw the raids was later demoted. Most importantly, in October 2016, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo publicly defended the rights and dignity of LGBT Indonesians.

These statements and actions, however, have not been followed with more systematic efforts to stop discrimination and abuse. President Jokowi, for example, has yet to take any steps to penalize government officials implicated in fomenting anti-LGBT discrimination, and his statements have not deterred senior government officials from making anti-LGBT statements or stopped police from conducting discriminatory raids on LGBT venues. In December 2017, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin called for LGBT people to be “nurtured, not shunned.” However, Saifuddin’s tolerance came with limits: he called for “religious adherents” to “embrace and nurture” LGBT people by reacquainting them with religious teaching, while in the same statement asserting that, “there is no religion that tolerates LGBT action.”

Meanwhile, throughout 2017 police raided saunas, night clubs, hotel rooms, hair salons, and private homes on suspicion that LGBT people were inside. The raids sometimes were preceded by police surveillance of social media accounts to discover an event’s location, and at times featured officers marching unclothed detainees in front of the media, public humiliation, and moralizing presentations of condoms as evidence of illegal behavior.

The vitriolic anti-LGBT rhetoric from public officials that began in early 2016 effectively granted social sanction and political cover to violence and discrimination—carried out by both citizen vigilantes and state authorities. The unabated stream of hateful anti-LGBT messaging from government officials and institutions has also contributed to a public health crisis.

Most new HIV infections in Indonesia occur through heterosexual transmission. However, one-third of new infections occur in MSM and HIV rates in that population have spiked in recent years. Abusive and discriminatory police actions including raids on private spaces and the use of condoms as evidence of purported crimes has harmed HIV education and outreach services by instilling fear among sexual and gender minority communities who urgently need such services. Meanwhile, public health data show that HIV prevalence rates among MSM are increasing dramatically. Moreover, while the prevalence of HIV in other key affected populations (KAPs) has largely remained stable, the prevalence of HIV among MSM has increased significantly and rapidly—with 25 percent of MSM infected with HIV in 2015 compared to only 8.5 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in 2007. HIV prevalence among transgender women (waria) was reported at 22 percent in 2011 and 2015.

The Indonesian government’s failure to protect the rights of LGBT people represents a betrayal of fundamental human rights obligations. The crisis is also isolating Indonesia from its neighbors and attracting broader international opprobrium.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights in January 2018 reacted to the anti-LGBT crisis by warning Indonesia of its “blatant violation of all Indonesians’ right to privacy and their fundamental liberties.” After a February 2018 visit to Indonesia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that “LGBTI Indonesians already face increasing stigma, threats and intimidation” and said: “The hateful rhetoric against this community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions.”

In July 2017, Indonesia indicated that it would reject all recommendations aimed to protect the rights of LGBT people at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the process in which every United Nations member state has its human rights record reviewed every four years. However, in September the government announced it would accept proposals to “take further steps to ensure a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders,” including LGBT activists. It also committed to implement the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and give priority to equality and nondiscrimination—including for LGBT people. Government health authorities have made similar pledges to eliminate human rights-based barriers to equitable access to HIV services. Given the government’s track record on this issue so far, implementation will be key.

As a first step, the police should halt all raids on private spaces, investigate those that have taken place, and punish the perpetrators and their chain of command. Police should instead be instructed to protect gatherings of sexual and gender minorities from attack by vigilantes and militant Islamist groups.

Indonesia’s laws need to be adjusted as well. The government should amend the anti-pornography law, which currently construes same-sex conduct as “deviant.” The government should make it clear to parliamentarians who propose criminalizing sex outside of marriage and same-sex conduct that such measures violate the constitution and Indonesia’s international human rights obligations.

The courage to confront the anti-LGBT moral panic should come from the highest ranks of Indonesian government. Indeed, it was President Jokowi himself who said that “the police must act” against any moves by bigoted groups or individuals to harm LGBT people or deny them their rights, and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone.” He needs to take further action on this pledge, including by immediately ordering an end to police raids that unlawfully target LGBT people, investigating the raids of 2017 and 2018, and dissolving any regional and local police units dedicated to targeting LGBT people.



Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report throughout 2017, including 48 in-depth interviews with sexual and gender minorities, HIV outreach workers, and human rights activists in Java, including in the cities of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bogor, and Yogyakarta; in Kalimantan, including in Banjarmasin, Pontianak, Amuntai, and Barabai; and in Sumatra, including in Medan.

We conducted interviews in safe locations, sometimes far away from the interviewee’s home neighborhood or city, and the names of nearly all LGBT individuals in this report are pseudonyms. In some cases, we have withheld the location of interviews and other potentially identifying characteristics of interviewees for security purposes. Interviews were conducted in English and in Bahasa Indonesia, with simultaneous English interpretation when necessary. Interviewees were informed how the information gathered would be used and told that they could decline the interview or terminate it at any point. Reimbursement ranging from US$1 to $10 was paid for transportation costs, depending on the distance the individual had traveled. No other payments were made to interviewees.

Our accounts of specific raids on gatherings are based on multiple interviews with participants and witnesses to the specific incident or, as indicated, on secondary sources that we cross-checked with activists and witnesses directly involved with the incidents.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Human Rights Watch engaged Indonesian government officials in a series of meetings and letters, as described in our 2016 report, These Political Games Ruin Our Lives.”  We have included some of the relevant correspondence with government officials, including letters to the minister of health and chief of police, as annexes to this report; other correspondence is featured as an annex to our 2016 report.


I. The 2016 “LGBT Crisis”

[T]he “LGBT crisis” is only indirectly about children or Islam. It is really about national belonging, about who will have a place at the table in Indonesia’s evolving civil society. If we read what are now hundreds of pages of anti-LGBT statements from the first months of 2016, certain key phrases recur: above all, variations of the claim that being LGBT does not fit “our national culture.”
—Tom Boellstorff, “Against State Straightism,” March 2016[1]

Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Moral Panic

Prior to January 2016, many sexual and gender minorities across Indonesia lived with a mix of tolerance and prejudice. While waria—loosely translated as transgender women[2]—have long been a highly visible part of Indonesian social life and cultural fabric, many others found safety in discretion: many LGBT people chose to live without publicly disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity as a means to protect themselves from discrimination and violence.

Indonesian LGBT people and civil society groups had endured sporadic hateful rhetoric and violent attacks over the preceding three decades,[3] including during the Suharto dictatorship from 1966 to 1998 and in the first decade of post-authoritarian rule. However, those incidents were isolated and did not hinder LGBT people from gaining increasing recognition as part of Indonesia’s pluralistic society. Nongovernmental organizations focusing on gender, sexuality, health, and human rights were able to register; university professors taught courses that featured discussions of homosexuality; and activists organized public and private events about LGBT rights issues.[4]

No national laws specifically protected LGBT against discrimination, but the central government had never criminalized same-sex behavior. And while some national laws—such as the 2008 Law on Pornography—contained discriminatory anti-LGBT clauses, they had never been used to target LGBT people. That changed in 2016 when the rights of Indonesian sexual and gender minorities came under unprecedented attack.

Beginning in January 2016, politicians and government officials began making anti-LGBT public comments, and, once joined by state commissions, militant Islamists, and mainstream religious organizations, the rhetoric grew into a cascade of threats and vitriol against Indonesian sexual and gender minorities. That outpouring of intolerance was accompanied by court cases and legislative proposals intended to prompt information ministry censorship of LGBT content in the media,[5] police and societal crackdowns on undefined “LGBT campaigning,” and criminalization of adult consensual same-sex conduct.[6]

During January and February 2016, anti-LGBT statements ranging from the absurd to the apocalyptic echoed through Indonesia’s media: at a maternal health seminar, a mayor warned young mothers off instant noodles—their time and attention, he said, should be given instead to nutritious cooking and teaching their children how not to be gay. The National Child Protection Commission issued a decree against “gay propaganda” and called for censorship.[7] The national professional association for psychiatrists proclaimed same-sex sexual orientation and transgender identities as “mental illnesses.”[8] The country’s largest Muslim organization called for criminalization of LGBT behaviors and activism, and forced “rehabilitation” for LGBT people.

Most perniciously, Indonesia’s minister of defense labeled LGBT rights activism a proxy war on the nation led by outsiders:

It's dangerous as we can't see who our foes are, but out of the blue everyone is brainwashed—now the [LGBT] community is demanding more freedom, it really is a threat…. In a nuclear war, if a bomb is dropped over Jakarta, Semarang will not be affected—but in a proxy war, everything we know could disappear in an instant—it's dangerous.[9]

What began as public condemnation quickly grew into calls for criminalization and “cures.”  One United Nations official said the crisis had “touched a bedrock of huge homophobia.”[10]

In an August 2016 report, Human Rights Watch documented the rise in anti-LGBT rhetoric earlier in the year as well as threats and violent attacks on LGBT organizations, activists, and individuals, primarily by militant Islamists. LGBT people told Human Rights Watch that the increased anti-LGBT rhetoric also fueled heightened hostility from family members and neighbors. In Pontianak, an LGBT rights activist said that 2015 was the last time he could organize a “Miss Waria” contest, a concern echoed by transgender activists across conservative areas in Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan in interviews with Human Rights Watch.[11]

Anti-LGBT sentiment had previously existed in some pockets in Indonesia. In past decades, militant Islamists had attacked LGBT public activities, in several instances breaking-up or otherwise forcing the cancellation of scheduled events.[12] Even before 2016, LGBT rights activists had come to understand that they could not trust police to protect them when they face orchestrated intimidation or violence. As a gay HIV outreach worker in Jakarta described to Human Rights Watch in November 2017: “The major shift since 2016 is that the media has completely discredited LGBT people—a total character assassination.”[13]

The international nongovernmental group Frontline Defenders in a 2017 report documented attacks and death threats on LGBT human rights activists, and argued that “the government’s own crackdown on LGBT rights in 2016 emboldened those who want to terrorize human rights defenders into silence.”[14]

In a 2017 report, LBH Masyakarat, the Community Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta, analyzed more than 300 media stories on LGBT issues from 70 different outlets.[15] The report concluded that, “misconceptions about LGBT people seem to have found more room in 2016. The traction of views that LGBT people are a threat to the nation was made possible by the accumulation of misconceptions relating to LGBT people.” Their research found that anti-LGBT stigma perpetuated by the media ranged “from the common view that LGBT people are the contemporary projection of Sodom and Gomorrah to the use of LGBT stigma as a form of proxy war in Indonesia.” LBH Masyarakat observed:

Social media, which at first was a free space for LGBT people to express themselves without worrying about normative restrictions, [has] become a restricted space. LGBT people are marginalized in society and now also isolated from room for free expression online. Considering that social media has been used by HIV and LGBT activists to deliver education and outreach, attempts to block websites and application will affect the right of LGBT citizens to access adequate information about Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and healthy reproduction.[16]

“When the media rises up against LGBT, I fear for my life,” a gay HIV outreach worker in Jakarta told Human Rights Watch. [17]

And the fear has not abated. “The suspicion from any neighbor that we are gay can put us in real danger,” said Panuta, a 25-year-old gay man who works as an HIV outreach worker for MSM in Jakarta. “Whenever a group of my friends gets together now, we’re afraid of neighbors snooping and calling the religious groups or the police and saying we are having a sex party—even if we are not,” he said. “Even for me, I always have condom stocks at my apartment because of my job, so I get afraid if I have friends over and we are watching TV and we start laughing. I worry: are we laughing too loud? Will a neighbor report us? Will the police find the condoms and accuse us of being gay or prostitutes?”[18]

Anti-LGBT advocacy by psychiatrists in particular appears to have persisted. On February 16, 2016, Dr. Fidiansjah, a psychiatrist and the director of mental health at the Ministry of Health, stated during a live television program that homosexuality is a “psychiatric disorder.”[19] Three days later, on February 19, the Indonesian Psychiatrists Association (PDSKJI), where Fidiansjah is a board member, issued a notice stating that “people who are homosexual and bisexual are categorized as people with psychiatric problems.”[20] 

According to a March 24 Jakarta Post report, Minister of Health Nila Moeloek said she would investigate Dr. Fidiansjah’s comment. During a meeting with Human Rights Watch on April 12, however, the minister denied any knowledge of Dr. Fidiansjah’s comments.[21]

Dr. Fidiansjah, now serving as the Director of Prevention and Control of Mental Health and Nutrition Problems at the Ministry of Health, told reporters in January 2018 that “LGBT is a mental health issue” and that the health ministry’s job is to maintain “norms, religion, and culture.”[22]  Human Rights Watch wrote to health minister Moeloek to seek clarity on February 9th, 2018. At the time of this report’s publication, we had received no response.[23]

Indonesia’s Worsening MSM HIV Epidemic

In recent years, Indonesia’s HIV epidemic has been significantly worsening. With nearly 48,000 new infections a year, UNAIDS in 2012 categorized Indonesia as one of the 9 countries among 186 countries reported with an alarming rise in new infections despite increasing investments from donors and the government for its HIV response. [24] With the exception of the provinces of Papua and West Papua, where the epidemic is even worse, Indonesia has a “concentrated” HIV epidemic, meaning it is composed of multiple intertwined epidemics in different “key affected populations” (KAPs).[25]

According to government and UNAIDS data, in 2017, Indonesia recorded 46,357 new HIV infections, with the highest number of new infections occurring in three groups: non-key affected population females[26] (33 percent of new infections); male clients of sex workers (24.5 percent), and MSM (23.5 percent).

While most new HIV infections in Indonesia occur through heterosexual transmission, one-third of new infections occur in MSM. Moreover, while the prevalence of HIV in other KAPs has largely remained stable, the prevalence of HIV among MSM has increased significantly and rapidly with 25 percent of MSM infected with HIV in 2015[27] compared to only 8.5 percent in 2011[28] and 5 percent in 2007.[29] In major urban centers such as Denpasar in Bali and Jakarta, the MSM epidemic is even more prevalent with nearly one in three MSM infected with HIV.[30] HIV prevalence among waria was reported at 22 percent in 2011[31] and 2015.[32]

Against this backdrop of a worsening epidemic among MSM, data appear to show complex trends: an increasing awareness of HIV among MSM with 65 percent demonstrating comprehensive HIV knowledge in 2015 compared to only 25 percent in 2011. Similar positive trends in protection measures are observed with condom use, with 79 percent of MSM reporting condom use in the last sexual encounter in 2015 compared to 60 percent in 2011. [33] These data suggest that outreach by nongovernmental groups to MSM communities has been successful. However, these data also suggest that MSM still face significant barriers to accessing care. 

Only about 50 percent of MSM have ever tested for HIV, and out of those infected and needing antiretroviral drugs (ARV) only 9 percent are currently taking the medications.[34] In a 2015 review, the National AIDS Commission wrote that one of the impediments to curbing Indonesia’s HIV epidemic was: “Limited attention and resource allocation for programming to key population sub-groups among whom epidemic growth is currently the most robust – MSM in particular.”[35] The National AIDS Commission report also noted that: “To date, national program efforts directed to MSM and clients of sex workers have been sporadic, unfocused and grossly under-funded.”[36] A 2017 public health study of MSM in Yogyakarta found that,

In addition to concealing their sexual orientation and avoiding discussions about health issues or attendance to health care provision…cultural norms and perspectives against same-sex relationships or marriage [influenced] their decision to move to Yogyakarta where they developed and/or engaged in MSM social networks…. [which] supported their engagement in HIV-risky sexual behaviors.[37]

According to UNAIDS-Indonesia:

Many factors may have contributed to the slow progress of HIV responses in Indonesia, but the biggest one is the widespread stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV). Despite the progress that the government of Indonesia has achieved over the years in terms of HIV-related services provision, stigma and discrimination have discouraged people from accessing those services, and contributed to PLHIV’s fearing of losing their jobs, being discriminated at workplaces or schools, or evicted from their houses due to their HIV status.[38]

UNAIDS officials also told Human Rights Watch that, “Hostile policy and programmatic approaches against key affected populations (KAPs) of people who inject drugs (PWID), female sex workers (FSW), men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender women have worsened the HIV responses even more.” This includes, “the recent backlashes against LGBT people have forced these key populations to go underground, impeding HIV outreach services for them and, most of all, denying them their basic right to health.”[39]

Mathematical modeling conducted by the Ministry of Health in 2014 indicated that the number of annual new HIV infections will continue to grow unless further efforts are made to expand program coverage and intervention effectiveness, especially with regard to programs directed towards MSM.[40]

Despite these findings by the government, access to services remain difficult for many MSM. As documented in this report, amid rising intolerance, anti-LGBT moral panic, and increasingly unclear legal protections, outreach workers struggle to salvage their networks of MSM. Access to government-provided health insurance, which is supposedly available to all Indonesian citizens and is a key driver of retention in care, remains difficult for many MSM because it is based on family-unit registration, and many do not want to reveal their identity or HIV status to their family. [41] For example, as Dr. Sandeep Nanwani and Clara Siagian wrote in 2017:

Getting a [national insurance card] is in itself a laborious and difficult task for many Indonesians. For people like Noni it is nearly impossible. A [national insurance card] can only be obtained through civil registration – either through birth registration or by being included on an official Family Card that lists a permanent physical address. This is a requirement that many waria, vagrants, and street children cannot meet because they have been estranged from their families.[42]

Prevention efforts—such as donor-funded, organization-led outreach—are not sufficiently linked to care, which is often delivered in government-run clinics. In other words, while education and awareness regarding HIV among a stigmatized population such as MSM may be high, fear of non-confidentiality, rejection, and discrimination when attending government clinics remains a barrier to accessing care services. This can create a gulf between MSM and mainstream HIV care—in particular when government officials, politicians, and powerful religious institutions drive stigma against the population—and portends a risky future as Indonesia’s economic growth indicates that it may graduate out of donor funding eligibility in coming years.[43]

Disturbing HIV Policy Shifts

Historically, as part of its response to the AIDS epidemic, the Indonesian government engaged with LGBT and MSM-focused civil society groups. This practice subsequently changed, in part due to pressure from religious organizations. Veteran HIV and LGBT rights activist Dede Oetomo wrote in 1996:

Initially at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the Indonesian Ministry of Health was quite supportive…. But they quickly regretted what they had done because they were blasted by…Muslim religious leaders, by some of the Christian leaders and by the middle classes. Increasingly we lost the support of the Indonesian Ministry of Health. It's got to the point where the Indonesian National AIDS Commission has informally discouraged funding agencies from funding gay-related projects.[44]

Significant shifts in HIV policy introduced in 2016 have left NGO workers and activists anxious about potential future difficulties in implementing HIV programs. The coordination and implementation of even largely international donor-funded HIV programs now rest with local governments—exposing LGBT and MSM communities and networks to possible neglect and hostility.

Dissolution of the National AIDS Commission

In 2016, President Jokowi issued a decree dissolving the National AIDS Commission (NAC).  Founded in 2004, independent of the Ministry of Health, the NAC functioned as a key coordinating body connecting civil service organizations to state services. With the dissolution of the NAC, HIV-related activities are coordinated by local governments. In the absence of the NAC, non-government and community-based organizations now need to obtain funding and services from local authorities themselves. This places a heavy burden on underfunded community healthcare workers responsible for coordinating patient care. Local officials, often with no clear oversight,  are left with the task of disbursing funds to organizations working with at-risk populations (KAPs) at their sole discretion. [45] While it is not yet clear what the dissolution of the NAC will mean to the running of HIV programs, activists and NGOs fear that with no programmatic and political support from the NAC, they may face difficulties in implementing programs as they are forced to negotiate programs with inefficient and sometimes hostile local governments.

MSM Absent from Minimum Health Standards

Since 2004, Indonesia’s health system has been decentralized. One aspect of this structure is that local health systems are guided and regulated by minimum standards set by the Ministry of Health in Jakarta. In 2016, in an effort to improve local government response to the HIV epidemic, the Ministry of Health issued new “Minimum Standards” for health services. The Minimum Standards are a set of basic care packages that local governments must deliver to its constituents, including basic antenatal care, TB services, and HIV care. For the first time, in 2016 the standards included HIV healthcare service delivery across Indonesia.

The HIV section of the 2016 standards omit any explicit mention of MSM, stating only that HIV outreach should target those “at risk” of HIV.  With MSM not included on the list of those at risk, public health workers and advocates believe it will be more difficult to receive funding and manage operations related to MSM outreach education, testing, and treatment access. Effective outreach requires close coordination with local health centers who are managed by district governments. With MSM outreach not explicitly named in the minimal standards, district governments have the discretion to no longer fund MSM outreach programs.[46]

For example, NGOs seeking to run mobile Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) need a letter from district authorities before they can enter malls, nightclubs, or other spaces with testing kits. Previously, such credentials were obtained from the NAC. Under the new format, such NGOs will be at the mercy of local government officials without clear guidelines directing officials to issue the credentials.

Government Commitments to the Global Fund

In 2017, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria made available to Indonesia US$2.7 million of matching funds under its “Catalytic Investment” program. The funds are earmarked to support the removal of human rights-related barriers to HIV services.[47]

In May 2017, Indonesia’s Country Coordinating Mechanism—a committee that submits the country’s Global Fund application and includes representatives from government, the private sector, technical partners, civil society, and communities living with the diseases[48] —submitted a funding request to the Global Fund that included HIV programming for MSM. The application noted: “Recent epidemiological modeling estimates that about 63% of new HIV infections in Indonesia are among key affected populations (KAPs),” adding that in all KAPs except MSM, HIV prevalence has stabilized and possibly begun to decrease. The application noted “contextual factors” driving the disparity included “persistent stigma and discrimination against key populations” and a “deteriorating enabling environment.” It explained: “The deteriorating environment is primarily evidenced by a widespread crackdown on sex work and sex workers, [and] the emergence of a government-endorsed anti-LGBT movement.” In its pursuit of the Global Funds Catalytic Investment matching funds, the Country Coordinating Mechanism described the human rights-related activities the government and partners[49] pledged to undertake with the funding:

The interventions aim to reduce stigma and discrimination among MSM and transgender people; improve legal literacy (also for MSM and transgender people); and improve laws, regulations and policies relating to HIV and HIV/TB.[50]


II. Anti-LGBT Raids and Legal Changes in 2017

Many MSM tell me that the anti-LGBT political crisis is driving them crazy. We are scared in public and now there is no privacy.[51]
—HIV outreach worker in Jakarta, November 2017

Police in Indonesia apprehended at least 300 LGBT people in 2017—a spike from previous years, where arrests were sporadic, often targeted sexual and gender minorities for reasons other than their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. their participation in street begging or sex work) and never resulted in prosecution. The raids continued in early 2018.

In the wake of the onslaught of anti-LGBT rhetoric from public officials in early 2016, vigilantes and militant Islamists carried out threats and violent attacks on LGBT NGOs, activists, and individuals. In some cases, the threats and violence occurred in the presence, and with the tacit consent, of government officials or security forces. Later in 2016, beginning with a raid on a private residence in Jakarta, and carrying into 2017 with multiple raids on homes and other private venues, police became active participants in the anti-LGBT crackdown.

The pattern of the raids suggests an intensifying government crackdown and portends a public health crisis. Some raids were initiated by neighbors or militant Islamist groups who suspected individuals in their vicinity were gay or transgender. Others were undertaken by police units that detected gatherings of sexual and gender minorities via social media announcements or discussions, such as WhatsApp screen shots.

Raids and Arbitrary Arrests

November 2016: Militant Islamists, Police Raid Private Jakarta Home

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)[52] claimed its self-proclaimed “investigative unit” tipped off police to conduct a “successful raid” on November 26, 2016 at a private home in South Jakarta. Police apprehended and detained 13 men for at least 24 hours, releasing them only after determining that no laws had been broken during the gathering.[53] The FPI’s social media accounts posted photographs of police taking men in for questioning, and local media reported that mobile phones and HIV/AIDS medication were confiscated from the premises.[54]

January 2017: Police Cancel Transgender Event, Temporarily Detain Hundreds

On January 19, 2017, police in South Sulawesi province obstructed a group of 600 waria and bugis (transgender and gender non-conforming people) from participating in a planned sports and cultural event by blocking off the site of the event. Police then detained them for several hours in a recreation hall in Soppeng. Media reports indicate police acted on the request of the semi-official Indonesia Ulama Council, which said the event was “not in line with religious values.”[55]

April 2017: Police Raid Surabaya Hotel Gathering, Force HIV Tests

Police in Surabaya, acting on tip-offs from neighbors, carried out a midnight raid on the Oval Hotel where 14 men had gathered on the evening of April 30, 2017. Police detained the group while confiscating condoms, mobile phones, and a flash drive that allegedly contained pornographic videos, among other items.[56] On May 1, police informed the media that all 14 men underwent tests for sexually transmitted infection, including a rapid test for HIV, and that five had tested HIV positive.[57] The police indicated that eight of the men were detained on suspicion of violating the Law on Pornography, and that two of them would be charged with organizing the event and providing pornography—offenses carrying prison terms of up to 15 years.

Authorities show condoms, lubricant, and HIV test results to the media while detainees cover their faces after police raided a hotel room in Surabaya, forced 14 men to undergo HIV tests, and arrested eight of them under the anti-pornography law in April 2017.

©2017 Dany Permana

In September 2017, the Surabaya court sentenced seven of them to between 18 months and 30 months in prison, ruling that they were involved in pornographic acts. Chief Justice Unggul Warso Murti determined that two of the seven men were proven to have “organized the gay party with Blackberry messenger advertisements.” The court found that the five others were only dancing and taking part in the “gay party.” [58] The penalties imposed were considerably harsher than the three-month jail term imposed on the eighth man for criminal possession of a weapon.[59]

May 2017: Men Publicly Flogged for Private, Consensual Same-Sex Conduct

On May 23, Sharia (Islamic law) authorities in Aceh province flogged two men 83 times in front of a crowd of thousands.

Local authorities publicly cane a man for having gay sex, in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, May 23, 2017.

© 2017 Beawiharta/Reuters

The two men had been apprehended on March 28in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, by unidentified vigilantes who forcibly entered one of the men’s apartment and then forcibly surrendered them to police for allegedly having same-sex relations.[60] A Sharia court convicted them of sodomy on May 17. During their trial, the prosecutor recommended 80 lashes, 20 shy of the maximum the law permits because the men were young and admitted their guilt.[61]  While Aceh’s Sharia courts have enforced public flogging before, this was the first time that courts had sentenced people to be flogged for same-sex conduct.[62]

May 2017: Police Raid “Gay Spa,” Arrest More Than 100

On May 21, police raided the Atlantis Gym, a sauna frequented by gay men in Jakarta, arrested 141 people, and charged 10 for holding an alleged sex party. Officers allegedly took photos of some of the naked men,[63] and paraded the suspects naked in front of media and interrogated them still unclothed, which the police deny.[64] The official Indonesian Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the police chastising them for violating the suspects’ privacy and dignity rights.[65] Six Indonesian human rights groups wrote to the police criticizing them for “inhuman and degrading” treatment during the arrests.[66] The photographs of the naked men appeared on social media within hours of the raid.[67]  

June 2017: Police Apprehend “Suspected Lesbians,” Post Video Online

On June 8, Tribun News posted a video of police in Medan interviewing and harassing five women suspected of being lesbians.[68] The clip features a government official, Rukun Tangga, who had visited the house and reported that he had allegedly seen two young women kissing. He reported that to the village head, as well as to the military officer in the village. That prompted the officials and other neighbors to force the five young women to go to the village office. The officials ordered the women to vacate their homes within three days.

Men arrested at the Atlantis Gym in Jakarta on May 21, 2017. Photo appeared on social media, and is believed to have been taken by police officers on the scene. 

June 2017: Police Raid Public Park, Disperse and Arrest Waria

On the evening of June 26, 2017, in Barabai, a city in South Kalimantan province, approximately 200 waria gathered in a public park called Pagat. About 10:30 p.m., dozens of municipal police officers arrived in two large trucks equipped with megaphones, and instructed the waria to leave.[69] Officers arrested four waria and detained them at a public order station in Barabai where, three detainees told Human Rights Watch, police forced them to run and do pushups in an apparent effort to humiliate them. Police took photos and videos of the detainees and posted the content on social media. One of those images included a shot of three of the four detainees squatting at the feet of four officials.[70]

Transgender activists in Amuntai, South Kalimantan, discuss the increase in discrimination they face while distributing condoms. Photo by Andreas Harsono.

© 2017 Human Rights Watch

One of the detainees, Yupi K., a 28-year-old waria, said: “The charge was not clear. It was probably disturbing public order. What did we disturb? We just gathered on the second day of the Idul Fitri holiday, having our annual reunion.”[71] The authorities’ social media postings caused future humiliation for Yupi, whose salon customers asked her about the incident and whether she was involved in prostitution—something other waria have experienced as well.[72] Bambi S., a 44-year-old waria salon owner who police also arrested at Pagat, said her customers notified her that a video of police apprehending her that night had been uploaded to YouTube.[73] One of the waria featured in the video told Human Rights Watch:

Several days after the arrest, one of my regular customers came to my salon and told me about the video and the photo. It was humiliating. I was scared that people here might recognized me. I might further persecution because my face had been shown publicly.[74]

The commander of the municipal police later stated publicly that authorities had conducted the sweep on the request of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI),[75] and relatives of staff at the Pagat park confirmed that they had received instructions from the MUI to rid the park of waria.[76]

September 2017: Police Arrest “Suspected Lesbians”

On September 2, police raided a residential compound that was home to 12 women in West Java province’s Tugu Jaya village. That raid was in response to complaints from local Islamic youth groups and religious leaders that the women’s cohabitation was “against the teachings of Islam.” Police demanded that the “suspected lesbians” immediately relocate from the area without providing any legal justification for the order, according to authorities.[77]

Municipal police in South Kalimantan province posted a photograph on Facebook of the detainees after a June 2017 raid on a gathering of transgender women in a public park. Photo by Andreas Harsono. 

©2017 Human Rights Watch

The police raid, led by the head of Tugu Jaya village, Sugandi Sigit, and the police commissioner, Saifuddin Ibrahim, resulted in the 12 women immediately vacating their homes and leaving the area. Mohammad Karim, the head of the neighborhood where the women lived in Tugu Jaya, sought to justify the raid by saying that the women were “unsettling the public.”[78] Sumantri, the head of the Cigombong district public order office that took part in the raids, said that police and government officials told the women that “their presence had created public disturbance in the area. We politely asked them to leave.”[79] A village official who asked not to be named told Human Rights Watch: “It’s not acceptable to have female couples living together. Some have short hair, acting as the males. Some have long hair, acting as the females. It’s against Sharia. It’s obscene.”[80]

Media reports indicate that in December 2017, authorities in a nearby village, acting on a tip from neighbors, apprehended a man and his waria partner. The police accused the two of having a sexual relationship, and demanded the waria leave her residence within two days and not return.[81]

October 2017: Police Raid “Gay Sauna,” Arrest More Than 50

On October 7, Jakarta police raided T1 Sauna, a club popular with gay men, arresting 58 people. Police released most of those men the same day but continued to detain five employees of the sauna—four men and a woman—and threatened to charge them with violating the Law on Pornography of 2008. Following the raid, in an apparent reaction to the criticism police faced following the May 2017 raid on the Atlantis night club, police spokesman Argo Yuwono told reporters: “We treated them well. They came out from the scene with proper clothes and their faces were covered.”[82]

January 2018: Police Raid West Java “Sex Party”

On January 13, police in Cianjur, West Java province, raided a private home where five men had gathered. Police told reporters these men were caught at a “sex party,” which violated the Law on Pornography with evidence that included condoms and lubricant.[83] Police indicated in media reports that they would charge the men under article 36 of the Law on Pornography, which imposes up to a 10-year sentence for “any person displaying himself or any other person in a public performance or display depicting nudity, sexual exploitation, coercion or other pornographic actions.” Several months earlier in May 2017, West Java Police Chief Anton Charliyan had announced the creation of a special anti-LGBT police task force in the province.[84] Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm that this task force was responsible for the January 2018 raid but the incident fits squarely within the reported mandate of the squad.[85]

January 2018: Waria Beauty Parlors in Aceh raided

On January 27, police and Sharia police jointly raided five hair salons that employed waria. Police arrested a dozen clients and employees, forced them to remove their shirts, cut their hair in public, and detained them for 72 hours. Immediately following these raids, North Aceh Police Chief Untung Sangaji said, as captured in a phone recording posted to YouTube: “Our ulama [Muslim scholars] disagree with this disease. [This disease] is spreading. It’s inhumane if Untung Sangaji is to tolerate these sissy garbage.”

Police parade a same-sex couple they arrested in March 2018 before the media. Neighbors in Jakarta suspected the men were gay, and entered their private home, turning them over to the police. 

© 2017 Tribun Media

He initially threatened to take action not only against waria across the province, but also any visitors to their hair salons. On January 30, Gen. Tito Karnavian, Indonesia’s national police chief, told reporters that he had ordered an investigation into Sangaji’s behavior. On January 31, after the chastisement from Jakarta, Sangaji had issued a lukewarm apology to, “parties who felt offended with what I did.”[86] On March 9, Indonesia’s National Police removed Sangaji, transferring him to be deputy director of the water police in Medan, North Sumatra.[87]

An Amnesty International investigation into the police raids and subsequent fall-out found that the waria’s humiliation did not end when the police released them, but rather continued in their homes and communities. Some of the 12 who were apprehended by the police eventually fled Aceh due to fear of additional violence, humiliation by neighbors and family members, and loss of livelihood.[88]

Shinta Ratri, the founder of an Islamic boarding school and mosque for transgender women in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, had to close down the institution under threats from militant Islamist groups in February 2016. It has since reopened. Photo by Kyle Knight.

© 2016 Human Rights Watch

March 2018: Neighbors Raid Same-Sex Couple in Jakarta

According to media reports, neighbors forcibly entered the rented room of two men in Jakarta on March 4, and alerted police to the presence of an “LGBT” couple in the neighborhood.[89] Police arrested the couple and took them to a government-run “rehabilitation” center in Jakarta.

Violence as a Fact of Life for Waria


Nigrat L., a 47-year-old waria outreach worker and community leader in Jakarta told Human Rights Watch:

Violence will always be there—it always has been with us. It’s just part of our lives. It’s normal. We just know it as our bad luck that day, and maybe tomorrow too, or maybe tomorrow will be better. We line up on the streets at night so that’s where the violence is. It’s a violent place. We can’t go dancing and begging during the day because the police crackdown and arrest us, so we have to work at night. And the night is violent, it always has been.[90]

Waria (an Indonesian term that loosely translates to “transgender women”) often migrate to urban areas at a young age. Largely excluded from formal employment, waria rely on sex work, busking, or hairdressing for income generation.[91] They face harassment from the police for busking and sex work as neither of the activities are tolerated by the state.

Waria arriving in urban areas typically experience difficulties in obtaining identification documents, because getting documents requires a family card and waria are often disconnected from their families. This lack of documentation and registration puts waria in a condition where they have limited or no access to a variety of state services including health care.

Spaces for waria to busk and participate in commercial sex have diminished significantly in recent years as a result of rapid urbanization and gentrification combined with the increasing policing of sex work.[92] Prevalence of sexual violence in settings of sex work where waria operate is also high as men who buy sex often have substance abuse disorders.[93] Waria often have little social support when they age and are often left abandoned in settings of extreme poverty and food insecurity.[94]

Despite these challenges and the severe violence many face every day, waria look for strength and resilience by forming strong community bonds. They draw on these bonds to survive, whether it is for economic support or other forms of social protection. Through these strong communities, waria have demanded access to basic social welfare programs, and care for one another. Notably, waria have a tradition of providing similar care for other marginalized and vulnerable populations, such street children and MSM.[95]

March 2018: Aceh Sharia police raid and arrest four for alleged same-sex conduct

On March 29, 2018, vigilantes forcibly entered a private house in Aceh province and called the Sharia (Islamic law) police, who arrested two male college students for allegedly having sex. A police officer questions one of the men in the Sharia police station. 

© 2018 Umar

In separate raids on March 12 and March 29, 2018 in Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh, vigilantes detained two individuals each time and turned them over to the Sharia police. On March 12, vigilantes targeted a hair salon and detained a man and a transgender woman who worked there. The Sharia police claim to have found “evidence” of same-sex conduct, including condoms and “transaction money” from the transgender woman.[96] On March 29, vigilantes forcibly entered a private house and called the Sharia police, who arrested two male college students for allegedly having sex. The Sharia police seized condoms, cell phones, and a mattress as evidence of their alleged “crime.”[97] At the time of writing, all four detainees remained in Sharia police custody, pending trial in a religious court.

March 2018: Military officers publicly harass waria

On March 29, 2018, vigilantes forcibly entered a private house in Aceh province and called the Sharia (Islamic law) police, who arrested two male college students for allegedly having sex. A police officer questions one of the men in the Sharia police station.

© 2018 Umar

On March 18, 2018, Indonesian military officers in Tanjung Pinang apprehended a group of waria on a public street and chastised them.[98] Military commander Lt. Col. Dandim Ari Suseno said the waria were given “pembinaan” (supervision, education) and asked to sign statements saying they would not engage in the “activity” again. The activity that Suseno mentioned was “meresahkan” (creating public unrest).[99]

Discriminatory Use of the 2008 Pornography Law

The raids on the clubs and parties this year have been a real education for our community. Most guys didn’t even know the pornography law existed before these incidents, and now they’re learning they can be arrested for being naked in a club or even a private party.[100]
—MSM HIV outreach worker in Jakarta, November 2017

Police officers guard the entry of the T1 night club in Jakarta on October 9, 2017, after they raided it and arrested 10 people for alleged violations of the anti-pornography law.

© 2017 Beawiharta/Reuters

In 2008, after several years of intense public debate about regulating morality, the Indonesian parliament passed the Law on Pornography. The FPI played a prominent role in encouraging policymakers to pass the law. The Prosperous Justice Party and MUI officially spearheaded the drafting and passage of the law. Human rights activists decried the law from the outset as being vague and discriminatory against women, LGBT people, and ethnic minorities.[101]

Defining Deviance

The 2008 Law on Pornography defines “pornography” as:

[P]ictures, sketches, illustrations, photos, writing, voice, sound, moving pictures, animation, cartoons, conversations, movements of the body, or other forms through a variety of communication media and/or performances in public, which contain obscenity or sexual exploitation, which violates the moral norms in society.[102]

The law prohibits the “creation, dissemination or broadcasting of pornography containing deviant sexual intercourse,” which it defines to include: sex with corpses, sex with animals, oral sex, anal sex, lesbian sex, and male homosexual sex. Possessing pornography is a crime with maximum sentence of four years in jail; a sexually suggestive performance can receive a 12-year sentence. The law also invites members of the public to play a role in enforcing it, giving an opening for vigilantes to take the law into their own hands. A group of activists, including LGBT organizations, attempted to challenge the law in the Constitutional Court in 2009, but the court declined to review it.[103]

On December 15, 2017, the North Jakarta District Court sentenced 10 men to between two and three years in prison for violating the Law on Pornography. Police had apprehended the 10, along with 131 others, during a raid on the Atlantis Gym, a sauna frequented by gay men in Jakarta, on May 21. The 10 were convicted based on allegations that they were naked at the time of the raid, citing the Law on Pornography’s prohibition on stripping performances. Most, but not all, were employees of the club—paid dancers.[104] This sentencing was the first prosecution under the Law on Pornography that specifically targeted gay men.  

A Narrowly Averted Constitutional Crisis

On July 19, 2016, a group called the Family Love Alliance, led by professors from the Bogor Agricultural Institute, near Jakarta, filed a petition with Indonesia’s Constitutional Court asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of proposed changes to the criminal code.  The petitioners sought amendments to the code’s articles on adultery (art. 284), rape (art. 285), and sex with a minor (art. 292). The changes would make all sex outside of marriage a crime; make the rape provisions in the criminal code gender-neutral (a request that is in line with international human rights standards); and amend the sex-with-a-minor provisions of the code, which outlaw sex between an adult and a minor of the same sex, to outlaw sex between two people of the same sex regardless of age.

In December 2017, the court dismissed the petition by a 5-4 vote following nearly 18 months of hearings. The bench rejected the petition on technical grounds, noting that the Constitutional Court is not the correct venue for creating new criminal laws. The commentary in the majority decision (see Appendix 3 for the full judgment) sheds light, however, on the judges’ view of the petition more broadly: “[I]t is out of proportion to place all the responsibility in arranging social phenomena—especially regulating behaviors considered ‘deviant’–to criminal policies only,” the majority decision reads, calling the petition “legally unsound.”

In analyzing the Family Love Alliance’s petition, the court warned against relying on criminal law as a way of addressing subjective social undesirability:

It is also apparent that the petitioners have an assumption that all social phenomena considered as “deviant” [premarital sex and same-sex relationships] by them that occur in society—even the majority of the nation’s big problems—will effectively be solved through criminal policies that punish individuals who act on it criminally. When we look at this paradigm implied by the petitioners, we have to be mindful that legal measures comprise only one element of aspects regulating our social life to create and maintain societal order. We have other social regulatory tools, which include morality, courtesy and religious values. Legal measures are placed last in line among these tools.[105]

In advising the parliament’s consideration of similar issues, the court mentioned Indonesia’s international legal obligations, and global trends:

Lawmakers have to pay careful attention not only to the legal developments that occur in the Indonesian society as a result of not only the Indonesian people’s worldview but also the legal developments that take place globally.

Proposed Revisions to the Criminal Code

Indonesia’s parliament has been revising the national Criminal Code since 1964. Beginning in January 2018, versions of the draft Criminal Code that featured troubling proposed provisions on criminalizing consensual sexual relations began circulating through various parliamentary committees, and a taskforce situated in parliamentary Commission III in charge of law and human rights.

In media interviews, taskforce members indicated that they intended to criminalize all sex outside of marriage (zina) as well as an additional clause specifically outlawing adult consensual same-sex conduct. Lawmakers justified various forms of criminalization as compromises against worse forms, and some even claimed that criminalizing same-sex conduct could protect LGBT people against vigilantism.

On January 22, 2018, Zulkifli Hasan, speaker of Indonesia’s People’s Consultative Assembly, who had been one of the first public figures to make inflammatory anti-LGBT statements in 2016, falsely told reporters that some parliamentarians were discussing same-sex marriage.[106] Erma Ranik, a member of the Criminal Code taskforce, tweeted and questioned Hasan’s inaccurate claim.[107] Hasan’s statement that legislators were discussing same-sex marriage was not true, but because it is a contentious and divisive topic in Indonesia it prompted all political parties to publicly affirm some degree of opposition to the basic rights of LGBT people. 

Other taskforce members proposed what they considered to be a compromise. As Ichsan Soelistio, a parliamentarian from Indonesia’s largest political party, Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDIP), and one of the taskforce members, told the Washington Post: “[We] have agreed to accept a law which allows prosecution of sex outside marriage and homosexual sex, but only if one of the sexual partners or their family members report the crime to police.”[108] Soelistio, who is a member of President Jokowi’s party, called the law “a firewall.” Without it, he claimed, “the public can try to take the law into their own hands” and attack LGBT people.

In February, the draft under consideration included proposed clauses that would increase the penalty for “obscene acts” with a minor to nine years’ imprisonment (up from five), and establish as a criminal offense “obscene acts” with people over the age of 18 if they “constitute elements of pornography [in their action],” carrying a nine-year sentence as well.

In May, Enny Nurbaningsih, who heads the parliamentary taskforce on the revisions to the criminal code, told reporters that “We want to make sure that the bill does not have an impression that it is discriminatory.”[109] The speaker of the House of Representatives, Bambang Soesatyo, responded however that the new criminal code will criminalize adult consensual same-sex conduct, explaining:

“We must not fear or succumb to outside pressure and threats that banning LGBT practices will decrease foreign tourism. What we must prioritize is the safety of nation's future, particularly the safety of our youth from influences that go against norms, culture and religion.”[110]

The draft also contains new prohibitions against advertising contraceptive products.[111] While the proposal contains an exception for NGO staff, it appears the draft would outlaw the commercial sale of condoms. Doing so would directly limit access to condoms, a crucial HIV prevention tool.[112]

The wording in the draft Criminal Code is similar to other Indonesian laws. The 2008 Law on Pornography also makes “obscenity and sexual exploitation” (perbuatan cabul) a criminal offense. John McBeth, a Jakarta-based journalist who has covered Indonesia for more than three decades, wrote that the Criminal Code changes are “a nod towards Islamic conservatism.”[113] Nurbaningsih said in a Jakarta Post interview: “We want to accommodate the needs of our heterogeneous society that holds [its own] values. We cannot equate our society with Western societies that have broader freedoms, like Europe. We have our own cultural values.”[114]

Nurbaningsih made an argument similar to that of many public figures who contributed to the deluge of anti-LGBT rhetoric in 2016—he claims to not be targeting the individuals but their “obscene acts”:

For the new regulation, we cannot [criminalize] a person [for his or her sexual orientation]. Instead, what we regulate is their [sexual practice], whether it is conducted in private or in public.

We are prohibited from raiding dormitories one by one to see whether or not there are two people in the same room. That is a private matter.

For the Republic of Indonesia, it is not possible for the government to intrude on the private matters of its citizens. But when private matters disrupt public matters, we have to enforce the law. For instance, when a person [engages in LGBT practices] to disrupt public order. We are not a liberal country.[115]

In an assessment of the proposal to expand the criminal sanctions for sex outside of marriage (zina), Naila Rizqi Zakiah, a public defender at the Community Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta, explained:

As is stands, the KUHP [Criminal Code] already criminalises adultery (zina). But the provision on adultery applies to sex between a married person and a person who is not their spouse, and is a complaint offence (delik aduan). This means it is only considered a crime if a party who feels they have suffered from the act reports it to the police. Article 484 of the revised criminal code, however, converts zina where one of the parties is married into a “normal offence” (not based on a complaint or report), meaning that anyone can report cases to police.[116]

On February 7, 2018, in his concluding remarks during his visit to Indonesia, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said:

I am greatly concerned about the discussions around revisions to the penal code…. Because these proposed amendments will in effect criminalise large sections of the poor and marginalised, they are inherently discriminatory. LGBTI Indonesians already face increasing stigma, threats and intimidation. The hateful rhetoric against this community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions. Moreover, should the penal code be revised with some of the more discriminatory provisions, it will seriously impede the Government’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and would run counter to its international human rights obligations.[117]


III. Impact of Moral Panic on Indonesia’s HIV Epidemic

Once there is a hint of sex associated with an event, it is in danger. I even stay away from any gathering that could be possibly perceived as gay, and then attacked.[118]
—MSM HIV outreach worker in Jakarta, November 2017

The anti-LGBT moral panic that began in 2016, and the sharp increase in arbitrary arrests, regressive policy changes, and legislative proposals that have accompanied it, portend a public health crisis. As outlined above, Indonesia’s population of MSM had already been experiencing increased rates of new HIV infections, and the anti-LGBT panic has made the situation even worse, negatively impacting HIV outreach education, condom distribution, and prevention activities.

Three police raids in 2017 shut down MSM HIV outreach “hot spots,” places where outreach workers would routinely meet and counsel MSM, as well as provide condoms and voluntary HIV tests. In at least two of the well-publicized raids, in Surabaya and West Java, police openly used condoms as evidence in exposing and humiliating MSM detainees in the media, and charging them under the anti-pornography law.

Human Rights Watch interviews with MSM HIV outreach workers and clinic staff in Jakarta and Yogyakarta found that outreach workers experienced increased insecurity and isolation as a result of the anti-LGBT moral panic, police raids, and general sense of fear among sexual and gender minority communities. Many reported substantial and unprecedented negative impacts on their ability to contact and counsel MSM.

MSM “Hot Spots” Disappear

The police raids on night clubs and saunas popular with gay and bisexual men in 2017 was a devastating blow to the morale and perceived safety of LGBT people in Indonesia. And because these private social spaces were also incorporated into HIV awareness and testing outreach programs, the raids also significantly disrupted crucial public health programming. HIV outreach workers in Jakarta told Human Rights Watch that one immediate impact of the raids and the subsequent closure of the venues—all of which were known “hot spots” for HIV prevention and testing outreach—was that public health workers like them no longer had their typical access points for education, condom distribution, and testing programs.

“It is devastating that these clubs have closed—they were the only places where we could find the community,” said an MSM HIV outreach worker in Jakarta. “Clubs were hot spots for us because we knew that even the discreet guys felt safe about their sexuality inside, so we could do HIV testing and give condoms and they wouldn’t be scared to participate.”[119] A colleague added: “It was the only place where we could test someone and deliver positive results in a way that didn’t destroy them.”[120] Said the outreach worker: “Condom distribution was fine before 2016. The anti-LGBT rhetoric plus the closure of the hot spots have made it very difficult…. The hot spots aren’t there any more—it’s getting more and more difficult to find MSM.”[121]

The combination of stigma, fear, and newfound lack of safe spaces has left outreach workers guessing, rather than relying on evidence-based community outreach models. As the outreach worker quoted above explained: “Now we have to guess about our own community—it’s a guessing game to find our own peers.”[122] And while they continue to attempt to network with MSM in other venues, all of the outreach workers Human Rights Watch interviewed in Jakarta said it became increasingly difficult during the second half of 2017 to have basic conversations about safer sex, or hand out condoms. Said one Jakarta-based outreach worker:

Now instead of the clubs and saunas we try to do basic outreach in public places that aren’t MSM-specific and it’s not working. Even if we can start a private conversation with a guy who is MSM, they won’t take condoms from us because other people could see it. I’m basically going out for a day or night of work, and coming back with all my condoms that I started with.[123]

An outreach worker who had worked in each of the three major venues that were shut down in 2017 said: “After the three raids in 2017, the remaining locations are getting harder and harder to work at—fewer and fewer guys agree to get tested or take condoms each time. They tell us they are scared of both—the test and the condoms.”[124]

Difficulty and Danger for Outreach Workers

All of the HIV outreach workers Human Rights Watch interviewed in November and December 2017 said the anti-LGBT crisis of 2016 and the raids and attacks on LGBT people in private spaces in 2017 had affected their perception of their own safety, as well as their ability to effectively do their jobs.

An outreach worker in Jakarta said: “MSM are feeling more and more insecure as a result of this anti-LGBT moral panic. It’s becoming more and more work to convince them of the basics—condoms, testing—because of these fears.”[125] A colleague who works in a different part of the city said: “This broader fear has made people suspicious of us. Even when we carry paperwork from the National AIDS Commission [in the past], even when we explain what we are doing, they refuse to participate.”[126] For some outreach workers, the contrast between their pre-2016 working environment and their current working environment is stark, and they attribute the shift to the virulent anti-LGBT rhetoric and misinformation that has dominated the media since 2016. For example, one Jakarta-based outreach worker told Human Rights Watch:

In the past, people used to listen to our HIV lessons and ask questions. In the past six months to one year, however, the tone has changed: They now say they’ve heard from the media that our organizations are trying to profit off of HIV, and they’re suspicious that HIV is even real. They say they want to get paid to take an HIV test.[127]

Another outreach worker explained: “Before 2016 and 2017, I could have actual conversations with MSM, even the discreet ones. Now people just walk away from me—they physically don’t want to be seen near me once I identify myself as working for an HIV NGO.”[128] Another outreach worker agreed that “over the past two years, MSM have started distancing themselves from outreach workers” and also noticed that “we see more and more [MSM] waiting to get really sick before they seek help or even ask questions about HIV.”[129] An HIV counselor at government (puskesmas) community health clinic in Yogyakarta confirmed the trend in his clients as well:

Most of the MSM we see these days in the clinic have at least mild symptoms when they come in for their first HIV test—they seem to know there is something wrong, then they come in, whether they come on their own or come because an outreach worker referred them. [In the past year] I’ve given positive results to a 17-year-old who didn’t even know what HIV was—let alone how he got it.[130]

Beyond the changes outreach workers observed in how MSM interacted with them, some  workers feared for their own safety while doing their jobs. For example, one described the challenges in accessing MSM networks after the clubs and saunas closed. He said:

Now if we try to go to social spaces or cruising areas based on rumors, and we approach a guy to talk about HIV or condoms—if it turns out he’s not MSM or he’s a hostile person, we are at risk of being attacked, or accused of being gay in public. So many people immediately associate HIV with LGBT that it’s dangerous to make a mistake and talk to someone who’s not MSM.[131]

Citing the raids on the Jakarta establishments in 2017, one outreach worker explained: “After the [raids], [our organization] held an edutainment event for general HIV awareness and I was scared to attend—scared to go to my own work event and do my job.”[132] And in addition to the observation that MSM were increasingly approaching outreach workers when they felt sick, some outreach workers observed an uptick in questions about personal safety. For example, one said:

Before this year, MSM never asked us about their physical safety. They’d ask about HIV and sex and stuff, but not safety. Now when we chat with them and tell them where they can go get an HIV test, for example, the first question they all ask is: “Is it safe to go there?”[133]

Even a waria HIV outreach worker who argued that the waria community’s history with violence and discrimination had somewhat inoculated them against the 2016-2017 anti-LGBT political crisis, told Human Rights Watch: “These days I hold mobile testing sessions at my rented room and invite people to come by word of mouth. We used to do testing on the street but it’s no longer safe or realistic—too many people associate HIV with LGBT, and that [acronym] is dangerous now.”[134]

Condoms as Evidence

HIV is a potentially fatal disease, and other sexually transmitted diseases increase the likelihood of HIV infection. Police interference with people’s ability to access condoms or health information from peers impedes their rights to life and health and is incompatible with human rights standards. For marginalized people, some of the most effective HIV protection outreach workers—and indeed sometimes the only such workers—are their peers. When laws and policies equating condoms with criminal activity interfere with the efforts of MSM to distribute condoms to their peers, access to health is significantly undermined.

An MSM HIV outreach worker in Jakarta told Human Rights Watch: “Condoms right now feel like a strictly prohibited item. I feel like I’m asking people to smuggle illicit drugs when I hand them out.”[135]

Other MSM, including those who did outreach work and those who were not involved in HIV work, echoed this fear. An outreach worker in Jakarta said that he increasingly struggled to convince MSM to take condoms from him. “People always refuse condoms these days because they’re afraid of having them used as evidence,” he said. “They tell me even keeping them in your private rented room is dangerous.”[136] Another Jakarta-based outreach worker said:

At general public HIV awareness events these days, we barely get anyone to take condoms. We hear things like: “If there’s a raid, and I have condoms in my pocket, I’ll be accused of being a whore!”[137]

Explained a gay man in Jakarta: “Two years ago we used to say to each other, ‘Oh, I’m out of condoms do you have any I can take?’ but now we don’t say even that—we can maybe whisper about condoms now but even that takes courage.”[138] Others told Human Rights Watch they had experienced direct harassment from police and security guards at shopping malls when authorities discovered they were carrying condoms. One MSM outreach worker recounted that a police officer, upon noticing the condoms he was carrying in his bag, asked him: “Are you promoting free sex or something?”[139]

Another Jakarta-based outreach worker explained that part of his job was to distribute boxes of condoms to massage parlors that catered to gay and bisexual male clients. He said that during the last six months of 2017, parlor owners began refusing the shipments. “Originally, I did monthly drops at nine parlors, now only six are open and only two of those six will take condoms from me,” he said. “They say they can’t risk the police coming and using condoms as evidence of gay prostitution.”[140]


IV. Indonesian and International Law

We aren’t asking for much—just acknowledgment that we are here, and respect for our right to be safe in our everyday lives.
—Gay man in Jakarta, November 2017

In 2012 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a guide summarizing some of the core legal obligations of states with respect to protecting the human rights of LGBT people. They include obligations to:

  • Protect individuals from homophobic and transphobic violence.
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Safeguard freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for all LGBT people. [141]

Indonesia is a party to core human rights treaties and protocols setting forth many of these obligations. Relevant treaties include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[142]

Right to Privacy

The criminalization of same-sex conduct between consenting adults violates the right to privacy and the right to freedom from discrimination, both of which are guaranteed under the ICCPR.[143]

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that arrests of persons on the grounds of sexual orientation and for “having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of opinion and expression” can amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Article 9 of the ICCPR guarantees everyone the right to liberty and security of the person; it prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. The UN Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that interprets the ICCPR and monitors state compliance, stated that article 9 guarantees these rights to everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.[144]

Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health

The right to the highest attainable standard of health is guaranteed under the ICESCR and CEDAW.[145] This right imposes an obligation on states to take necessary steps for the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic and other diseases. In meeting this obligation, states “should ensure that appropriate goods, services and information for the prevention and treatment of STDs [sexually transmitted diseases], including HIV/AIDS, are available and accessible.”[146]

In its General Comment on the right to health, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that “the right to health is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights,” including the rights to human dignity, access to information, and the freedoms of association and assembly.[147] Emphasizing that the right to health contains both freedoms and entitlements, the committee stated the ICESCR “proscribes any discrimination in access to health care and the underlying determinants of health, as well as to means and entitlements for the procurement, on the grounds of … sexual orientation.”[148]

“Accessibility” is particularly relevant in Indonesia where access to essential HIV services for LGBT people and MSM has been compromised since 2016. In General Comment No. 14, the CESCR stated:

Health facilities, goods and services have to be accessible to everyone without discrimination, within the jurisdiction of the State party. Accessibility has overlapping dimensions, including inter alia, nondiscrimination in law and in fact – especially of vulnerable or marginalized sections of the population and information accessibility - the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas concerning health issues.[149]

The anti-LGBT crisis that began in January 2016 has compromised the right to the highest attainable standard of health, both by impeding the work of health and HIV prevention groups (particularly those composed of LGBT people), and by imposing new risks for individual LGBT people who seek health services that may require revealing their sexual orientation.

Rights to Protection and Security

The ICCPR obligates states to uphold the rights to life and to security and freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.  This means exercising due diligence to protect everyone, including LGBT people, from violence within a state’s territory or jurisdiction. States have the responsibility to investigate and appropriately prosecute violence committed by private individuals as well as by state actors.[150] CEDAW also requires that states protect women and girls from gender-based violence, including violence based on discriminatory stereotypes, which means states “have a due diligence obligation to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish such acts of gender based violence.”[151]

To uphold its obligations under the ICCPR, CEDAW and other human rights treaties, Indonesia should take steps to more effectively prevent and more consistently investigate and appropriately prosecute attacks on LGBT people, including those motivated by hostility to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Right of Peaceful Assembly

The right of peaceful assembly is guaranteed under article 21 of the ICCPR. In a 2016 report, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association stated that, “The State’s failure to protect participants in a peaceful rally against violent, fundamentalist counter-protesters, for example, constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.” The special rapporteur added: “It does not matter if the State does not officially promote the counter-protesters’ ideology; it has a positive duty to protect those exercising their right to peaceful assembly, even if they are promoting unpopular positions (e.g., rights for LGBTI persons or those of a minority religion).”[152]

Indonesian authorities should ensure that LGBT people can exercise their right to peaceful assembly in safety and should hold accountable police officers who refuse to protect gatherings of LGBT people from attacks, regardless of whether the gatherings had prior police permission.



V. Recommendations

To President Joko Widodo

  • In line with Indonesia’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals on health, give higher priority to the health of all Indonesians, including by publicly endorsing more aggressive, evidence-based, and nondiscriminatory approaches to curbing the country’s HIV epidemic.

To the Directorate-General of Police

  • Stop police raids unlawfully targeting LGBT people, investigate and appropriately discipline or prosecute officers responsible for unlawful raids, and dissolve any regional and local police units dedicated to targeting LGBT people;
  • Release from custody anyone arbitrarily detained under the pornography law;
  • Order all police forces to protect gatherings of sexual and gender minorities from threat or attack by militant Islamist groups or other vigilantes.

To the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights

  • Review all district and provincial by-laws to ensure that they conform to constitutional guarantees and Indonesia’s international human rights obligations on non-discrimination and respect for individuals’ private life, including their sexual or gender identity.

To the Ministry of Home Affairs

  • Direct all provincial, district, and municipal governments to repeal all discriminatory by-laws that contravene the Indonesian constitution or violate international human rights law;
  • In consultation with nongovernmental organizations, develop non-discrimination training for all police forces across the country, including training on sexual and gender diversity;
  • Implement the recommendations Indonesia accepted during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in 2017 to “take further steps to ensure a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders,” including LGBT activists; protect freedom of expression, association, and assembly rights; and give priority to equality and nondiscrimination, including for LGBT people.

To the Ministry of Health

  • Ensure that all training for doctors, nurses, and other health workers address nondiscrimination and sexual health issues affecting LGBT people;
  • Issue a revised version of the Minimum Standards for health care, explicitly including men who have sex with men (MSM) as a population that is vulnerable to HIV infection;
  • Engage with MSM HIV groups to implement an effective response to HIV prevention and treatment;
  • Publicly reject the assertion of the Indonesian Psychiatric Association that homosexuality and “transgenderism” are mental health conditions;
  • In collaboration with groups representing sexual and gender minorities, create guidelines for mental health service providers based on the principles of nondiscrimination that acknowledge that differences in sexual orientation and gender identity are natural aspects of human life;
  • Prohibit the forcible detention and treatment of anyone in a purported effort to “cure” them of homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender identity, and rigorously enforce the prohibition;
  • Undertake a comprehensive review of health-related funding disbursed to religious organizations to ensure that they uphold constitutionally-protected nondiscrimination standards.

To the Global Fund

  • Ensure programs funded by Global Fund catalytic funding mechanisms prioritize human rights activities;
  • Ensure punctual and flexible delivery of funds to support Global Fund programs;
  • Urge the Ministry of Health to advocate for policies that uphold the right to health of all key affected populations (KAPs), including men who have sex with men (MSM).

To the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • Communicate to the Indonesian Ministry of Health that their diagnostic guidelines should be drafted in line with WHO standards, and include mention that same-sex attraction, homosexuality, and bisexuality are natural variations of human experience, and not “mental illnesses.”

To the Minister of Law and Human Rights

  • Seek amendments to discriminatory anti-LGBT provisions of the Law on Pornography that have allowed for prosecutions on the grounds that same-sex conduct is “deviant.”



Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher, and Kyle Knight, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program, wrote this report based on research conducted throughout 2017. Dr. Sandeep Nanwani, intern in the LGBT rights program, provided research assistance and drafted some sections of the report.

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director, Graeme Reid, LGBT rights program director, and Diederik Lohman, health and human rights director reviewed the report. James Ross, law and policy director, and Joseph Saunders, deputy program director provided legal and program review.

Production assistance was provided by MJ Movahedi, LGBT rights program associate; Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager; and Jose Martinez, administrative senior coordinator.



[1] Tom Boellstorff, “Against State Straightism: Five Principles for Including LGBT Indonesians,” E-International Relations, March 21, 2016, https://www.e-ir.info/2016/03/21/india-pakistan-relations-a-brief-survey....

[2]Waria” is an Indonesian term for people who are assigned “male” sex at birth and then develop a feminine gender identity. The word is a combination of “wanita” or woman and “priya” or man, and is sometimes translated into English as “transgender woman.” There are debates about the definition of waria, some of which are discussed in Irfan Kortschak, “Defining Waria,” Inside Indonesia, October-December 2007, http://www.insideindonesia.org/defining-waria (accessed April 27, 2018).

[3] Tom Boellstorff, A Coincidence of Desires: Anthropology, Queer Studies, Indonesia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).

[4] One of the earliest groups to form was Lambda Indonesia, launched in March 1982. This was followed by GAYa NUSANTARA, founded in August 1987 in Surabaya by a group of activists including the academic Dede Oetomo. In the 1990s, Oetomo wrote that “Islamic fundamentalist groups are not aggressive towards us,” offering as an example the following anecdote: “In one instance in Bandung a guy who made remarks like [‘you belong in hell’] was told to sit down by other members of the audience. In Southeast Asian culture it is considered more impolite to make such comments, than for somebody like me, a gay man, to be speaking in a public function.” Dede Oetomo, “Gay Identities,” Inside Indonesia, March 1996, http://www.insideindonesia.org/gay-identities-2 (accessed July 12, 2016).

[5] “Government drafts ban on LGBT websites,” Jakarta Post, March 5, 2016, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/03/05/government-drafts-ban-lgbt... (accessed February 19, 2018); Komisi Penyiaran Indonesia, “Edaran kepada Seluruh Lembaga Penyiaran Mengenai Pria yang Kewanitaan,” February 23, 2016, http://www.kpi.go.id/index.php/lihat-sanksi/33267-edaran-kepada-seluruh-... (accessed February 19, 2018). Human Rights Watch wrote to the Ministry of Information to urge the government to reject Commission I’s call and repeal the discriminatory decrees already issued by KPI. Human Rights Watch to Minister Rudiantara, “Letter on Free expression and LGBT people in Indonesia,” March 9, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/09/human-rights-watch-letter-free-expre...

[6] “Indonesia: Court Reviews Anti-LGBT Law,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 23, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/23/indonesia-court-reviews-anti-lgbt-law

[7] Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia, “Propaganda LGBT Dilarang Masuk Dunia Anak-Anak,” February 1, 2016, http://www.kpai.go.id/berita/propaganda-lgbt-dilarang-masuk-dunia-anak-a... (accessed February 19, 2018).

[8] See: Human Rights Watch, “These Political Games Ruin Our Lives”: Indonesia’s LGBT Community Under Threat, August 2016, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/indonesia0816_web_2.pdf .

[9] Kate Lamb, “Why LGBT Hatred Suddenly Spiked in Indonesia”, The Guardian, February 22, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/201...

[10] Global Philanthropy Project, “The Perfect Storm The closing space for LGBT civil society in Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Kenya, and Hungary,” 2016, https://globalphilanthropyproject.org/2016/04/22/perfectstormreport/.

[11] Human Rights Watch interview with Handi Syarif, Pontianak, January 22, 2018.

[12] In perhaps the most emblematic example of a state protection failure at a gathering, the 2010 International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Asian regional congress in Surabaya was dispersed by police under pressure from militant Islamist groups. After police told reporters that they refused to issue a permit for the event “due to security reasons” and because “many parties will stage protests,” some politicians, representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, and Indonesian NGOs issued statements of support for the gathering. Religious leaders responded by announcing they would escort foreign conference participants to the airport themselves. See Amir Tejo, “Surabaya Police Withhold Permit for Gay Conference,” Jakarta Globe, October 14, 2015, http://jakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/archive/little-light-administrative-d... (accessed February 19, 2018); Jamison Liang, “Homophobia on the Rise,” Inside Indonesia, April-June 2010, http://www.insideindonesia.org/homophobia-on-the-rise (accessed February 19, 2018).

[13] Human Rights Watch interview with Pratam M., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[14] FrontLine Defenders, “Attacks on LGBT Rights Defenders Escalating in Indonesia,” December 6, 2017, https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/report-attacks-lg....

[15] Community Legal Aid Institute, LGBT=Nuclear? Indonesia’s Phobia Emergency, March 2017, http://lbhmasyarakat.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/LGBT-Nuclear-Indones...

[16] LBH Masyarakat, “LGBT = Nuclear? Indonesia’s Phobia-Emergency,” August 8, 2017, http://lbhmasyarakat.org/en/lgbt-nuclear-indonesias-phobia-emergency/.

[17] Human Rights Watch interview with Kulon B., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with Panuta P., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[19] “Dr. Fidiansjah diminta mengkoreksi ucapan kelirunya yang semakin mengekalkan kebencian terhadap LGBT,” Kabar LGBT, February 20, 2016, https://kabarlgbt.org/2016/02/20/dr-fidiansyah-diminta-mengkoreksi-ucapa... (accessed April 3, 2018).

[20] The notice references Law No. 18/2014 on Mental Health and Guidelines for the Classification of Mental Disorder Diagnosis (PPDGJ)-III, which draws a distinction between “people with psychiatric problems” and “people with mental disorders.” The full statement is available in Human Rights Watch’s 2016 report, “These Political Games Ruin Our Lives.”

[21] “Government to probe psychiatrist for false LGBT claim,” Jakarta Post, March 24, 2016, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/03/24/government-probe-psychiatr... (accessed April3, 2017).

[22] “Kemenkes Kategorikan LGBT Masalah Kesehatan Jiwa,” Republika, January 1, 2018, http://republika.co.id/berita/nasional/umum/18/01/31/p3elvn328-kemenkes-...  (accessed February 3, 2018).

[23] See appendix 4 for the Human Rights Watch letter.

[25] AIDS Data Hub, “Country Profiles: Indonesia,”n.d., http://www.aidsdatahub.org/Country-Profiles/Indonesia

[26] This means women who are not sex workers and women who do not inject drugs, thus their non-inclusion in the key affected population designation.

[28] UNAIDS and UNDP, “MSM Country Snapshot: Indonesia,” 2012, http://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/documents/MSMSnapshots-In...

[29] AIDS Data Hub, “Country Profiles: Indonesia,”n.d., http://www.aidsdatahub.org/Country-Profiles/Indonesia

[31] Ministry of Health, Republic of Indonesia, “Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey,” 2011, http://www.aidsdatahub.org/ibbs-2011-integrated-biological-and-behavioral-survey-ministry-of-health-republic-of-indonesia

[32] AIDS Data Hub, “Country Profiles: Indonesia,”n.d., http://www.aidsdatahub.org/Country-Profiles/Indonesia

[33] Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey 2015, Ministry of Health, Indonesia

[34] AIDS Data Hub, “Country Profiles: Indonesia,”n.d., http://www.aidsdatahub.org/Country-Profiles/Indonesia

[35] Indonesian National AIDS Commission, “The Case for Increased and More Strategic Investment in HIV in Indonesia,” 2015, http://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/The_Case_for_Increased_and_More_Strategic_Investment_in_HIV_in_Indonesia_2015.pdf.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Nelsensius Klau Fauk, et al., “Culture, Social Networks, and HIV Vulnerability Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in Indonesia,” Plos One, 12 (6), June 5, 2017.

[38] Human Rights Watch correspondence with UNAIDS-Indonesia, May 8, 2018.

[39] Ibid.

[40] AIDS Epidemic Modeling 2014, Ministry of Health, Indonesia.

[41] Adi Nugroho, “Driving factors of retention in care among HIV-positive MSM and transwomen in Indonesia: A cross-sectional study,” Plos One, January 2017, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0191255

[42] Sandeep Nanwani and Clara Siagian,” Falling Through the Cracks,” Inside Indonesia, February 13, 2017, http://www.insideindonesia.org/falling-through-the-cracks

[43] National AIDS Spending Assessment 2011, National AIDS Commission, Indonesia.

[44] Dede Oetomo, “Gay Identities,” Inside Indonesia, March 1996, http://www.insideindonesia.org/gay-identities-2 (Accessed July 12, 2016).

[45] Republic of Indonesia, Presidential Decree no. 124 of year 2016, http://www.depkop.go.id/uploads/tx_rtgfiles/Perpres_Nomor_124_Tahun_2016...

[46] Ministry of Health Decree no. 43, Year 2016, On Minimum Standards

[48] Global Fund, Country Coordinating Mechanism, n.d., https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/country-coordinating-mechanism/

[49] Ibid. Ministry of Health, Spiritia Foundation (an HIV civil society organization), and the Indonesia AIDS Coalition are listed as Principal Recipients for the HIV component of the grant.

[50] AIDSpan, “Indonesia’s funding requests to the Global Fund prioritize finding missing TB cases, HIV prevention services for key populations,” August 22, 2017, http://www.aidspan.org/gfo_article/indonesia%E2%80%99s-funding-requests-...

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with Kulon B., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[52] The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) is an influential militant Islamist group that uses intimidation, threats, and violence while campaigning for the imposition of Sharia in Indonesia.

[53] “Indonesia Muslim hardliners break up what they think is gay sex party,” Reuters, November 28, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-lgbt/indonesia-muslim-hardl...

[54] “FPI barges into an apartment, forcing police to arrest several men,” Jakarta Post, November 27, 2016, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/11/27/fpi-barges-into-an-apartment-forcing-police-to-arrest-several-men.html  (accessed April 30, 2018).

[55] “Police ban transgender cultural event in South Sulawesi,” Jakarta Post, January 20, 2017, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/20/police-ban-transgender-cultural-event-in-south-sulawesi.html (accessed April 30, 2018).

[56] “Indonesia: ‘Gay Porn’ Arrests Threaten Privacy,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 4, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/04/indonesia-gay-porn-arrests-threaten-privacy

[57] “Astaga, Lima dari 14 Gay yang Digrebek Saat Pesta Seks di Surabaya Ternyata Idap Penyakit ini,” Surya, May 2, 2017, http://surabaya.tribunnews.com/2017/05/02/astaga-lima-dari-14-gay-yang-digrebek-saat-pesta-seks-di-surabaya-ternyata-idap-penyakit-ini (accessed April 30, 2018).

[58] “Pelaku pesta seks kaum gay di Surabaya divonis 2,5 tahun bui,” Merdeka, September 19, 2017, https://www.merdeka.com/peristiwa/pelaku-pesta-seks-kaum-gay-di-surabaya-divonis-25-tahun-bui.html (accessed April 30, 2018).

[59] “Gerry Dihukum Bukan karena Pesta Gay,” August 15, 2017, Berita Jatim, http://m.beritajatim.com/hukum_kriminal/305806/gerry_dihukum_bukan_karena_pesta_gay.html (accessed April 30, 2018).

[60] “Indonesia: Release Gay Men at Risk of Torture,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 9, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/09/indonesia-release-gay-men-risk-torture; Kyle Knight (Human Rights Watch), “Sparing the Rod in Indonesia,” commentary, Coconuts Jakarta, May 12, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/12/sparing-rod-indonesia

[61] “Prosecutors seek caning for gay couple in Indonesia's Aceh,” Associated Press, May 10, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/05/10/prosecutors-seek-caning-for-gay-couple-in-indonesia-aceh.html

[62] Krithika Varagur, “The public flogging of two gay men and what it says about Indonesia's future,” The Guardian, May 26, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/the-public-flogging-of-two-gay-men-and-what-it-says-about-indonesias-future (accessed April 30, 2018).

[63] According to the New York Times, “Officers herded naked, cowering men into the middle of the room and began taking photos, some of which — including one of Mr. Handoko — appeared on Indonesian social media within hours.” Jeffrey Hutton, “Indonesia’s Crackdown on Gay Men Moves From Bars Into the Home,” The New York Times, December 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/world/asia/indonesia-gay-raids.html (accessed April 30, 2018).

[64] “Komnas HAM: Polisi Menyalahgunakan Kekuasaan dalam Penggerebekan Pesta ‘Gay,’” Kompas, May 24, 2017, http://megapolitan.kompas.com/read/2017/05/24/08481621/komnas.ham.polisi.menyalahgunakan.kekuasaan.dalam.penggerebekan.pesta.gay (accessed April 30, 2018).

[65] “Komnas HAM: Polisi Menyalahgunakan Kekuasaan dalam Penggerebekan Pesta ‘Gay,’” Kompas, May 24, 2017,  http://megapolitan.kompas.com/read/2017/05/24/08481621/komnas.ham.polisi....

[66] LBH Jakarta, LBH Masyarakat, LBH Pers, Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, Yayasan LBH Indonesia, Arus Pelangi, “Pernyataan Sikap Bersama: Kasus Atlantis Gym & Sauna: Penangkapan Tidak Manusiawi dan Serangan Terhadap Privasi Warga Negara,” May 23, 2017, http://aruspelangi.org/siaran-pers/pernyataan-sikap-bersama-kasus-atlantis-gym-sauna-penangkapan-tidak-manusiawi-dan-serangan-terhadap-privasi-warga-negara/ (accessed April 30, 2018).

[67] “Indonesian police arrest 58 in raid on Jakarta gay sauna,” ABC News, October 9, 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-08/indonesia-police-arrest-58-in-raid-on-jakarta-gay-sauna/9028282 (accessed April 30, 2018).

[68] “Kepergok Sedang Ciuman, 5 Perempuan Diduga Lesbian Diusir Oleh Warga,” Tribun Medan, June 8, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4Ti228oiMo&feature=youtu.be

[69] “Ratusan Waria Gelar Pesta Seks di Alam Terbuka Objek Wisata, Baju dan Celana Berceceran,” Tribun News, July 5, 2017, http://jatim.tribunnews.com/2017/07/05/ratusan-waria-gelar-pesta-seks-di-alam-terbuka-objek-wisata-baju-dan-celana-berceceran

[71] Human Rights Watch intervivew with Yupi K., Amutai, November 28, 2017.

[72] For example, Bambi S., a 44-year-old waria told Human Rights Watch that after she was arrested in 2016 and accused of being a sex worker, police posted a video of her arrest online. “My customers later told me that they had seen my video on YouTube. It was really disturbing. The title of the clip was, ‘Waria Terjaring’ (Waria Netted) and ‘Lucu Ngakak, Waria Terjaring’ (Hillarious, Waria got Arrested). It was dehumanizing,” she said. Human Rights Watch interview with Bambi S., Banjarmasin, November 19, 2017. Video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oZ1Y091BaY&t=39s

[73] The Banjarmasin Post uploaded a video on the Pagat arrest, entitled “Aparat Gabungan Satpol PP, TNI/Polri Gagalkan Pesta Seks Waria di Objek Wisata Pagat” (Joint Operation Public Order Office, the military and the police prevented a sex party involving transgenders in Pagat tourism area), July 4, 2017. Video available at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1LeiEuoOFM

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Bambi S., Banjarmasin, November 19, 2017.

[75] The Banjarmasin Post quoted Haspiani, the head of the public order office in Barabai, who led the raid in Pagat, as saying that the raid was a request from the Indonesian Ulama Council to stop the “sex party” there. A July 4, 2017 video that includes his statement is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1LeiEuoOFM. The Indonesian Ulama Council is a semi-official body in Indonesia that has issued a series of discriminatory fatwas, or religious edicts against religious minorities and LGBT people over the past decade. In October 1997, they issued a fatwa declaring that “Waria is a man and cannot be seen a separate sex. All of these waria activities are forbidden and they must be supervised to their natural position.” See MUI, Himpunan Fatwa MUI Sejak 1975, Jakarta, 2011.

[76] “Aparat Gabungan Satpol PP, TNI/Polri Gagalkan Pesta Seks Waria di Objek Wisata Pagat,” Banjarmasin Post, July 4, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1LeiEuoOFM.

[77] “Indonesia: Stop Raids on Homes of ‘Suspected Lesbians,’” Human Rights Watch news release, September 5, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/05/indonesia-stop-raids-homes-suspected-lesbians.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Karim, Tugu Jaya, September 4, 2017.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with Sumantri, head of the Cigombong district public order office, September 4, 2017.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with village official, Tugu Jaya, September 4, 2017.

[81] “Astaga, Lagi Razia, Wali Kota Pergoki Waria dan Pria Bercumbu di Kost-kostan,” Tribun Kaltim, December 25, 2017, http://kaltim.tribunnews.com/2017/12/25/astaga-lagi-razia-wali-kota-pergoki-waria-dan-pria-bercumbu-di-kost-kostan

[82] “Indonesia Police Arrest 58 in Raid on Jakarta Gay Sauna,” Associated Press, October 8, 2017, https://www.voanews.com/a/indonesia-police-raid-jakarta-gay-sauna/4061281.html.

[83] “West Java police arrest 5 men for holding ‘gay sex party’ in private villa using pornography law,” Coconuts Jakarta, January 15, 2018, https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/west-java-police-arrest-5-men-holding-gay-sex-party-private-villa-using-pornography-law/amp/

[84] “Indonesia: Police Raids Foster Anti-LGBT Hysteria,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 2, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/02/indonesia-police-raids-foster-anti-gay-hysteria

[85] Kate Lamb, “LGBT crackdown feared in Indonesia after 12 women evicted from home,” The Guardian, September 6, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/06/lgbt-crackdown-feared-in-indonesia-after-12-women-evicted-from-home

[86] Kyle Knight, “Indonesia’s Police Chief Investigates Transgender Raids,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/01/indonesias-police-chief-investigates-transgender-raids

[87] “Kapolres Aceh Utara Untung Sangaji di Mutasi ke Polda Sumut,” Lintas Nasional, March 9, 2018, http://www.lintasnasional.com/kapolres-aceh-utara-untung-sangaji-di-mutasi-ke-polda-sumut/.

[88] Amnesty International, “Indonesia: Police must protect - not attack - transgender women living under threat in Aceh,” February 14, 2018, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/02/indonesia-police-must-protect-not-attack-transgender-women-living-under-threat-in-aceh/ (February 19, 2018).

[89] “Pasangan LGBT Digerebek Warga, Kapolsek Palmerah : Warga Sudah Curiga,” Tribun News, March 4, 2018, http://wartakota.tribunnews.com/2018/03/04/pasangan-lgbt-digerebek-warga-kapolsek-palmerah-warga-sudah-curiga

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with Nigrat L., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[91] Benjamin Hegarty, “'When I was transgender': Visibility, subjectivity, and queer aging in Indonesia,” Med Anthro Theory, January 23, 2017, http://www.medanthrotheory.org/read/7092/when-i-was-transgender

[92] Benjamin Hegardy, “Seeking a ‘zone of safety,’” New Mandala, April 19, 2017, http://www.newmandala.org/seeking-a-zone-of-safety/

[93] Elizabeth Pisani, The Wisdom of Whores, Granta Publications, 2008.

[94] Ari Shapiro, “Transgender Women Of Indonesia Have A Champion In A 26-Year-Old Doctor,” National Public Radio, November 2, 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/11/02/560281649/transgender-women-of-indonesia-have-a-champion-in-a-26-year-old-doctor

[95] “Mami Vinolia, Berjuang Entaskan Waria dari Jalanan,” Kompas, September 14,2009, https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2009/09/14/13052524/mami.vinolia.berjuang.entaskan.waria.dari.jalanan.

[96] “Gay Bayar Waria Rp100 Ribu Ditangkap Warga di Aceh,” Viva, March 13, 2018, https://www.viva.co.id/berita/nasional/1015985-gay-bayar-waria-rp100-ribu-ditangkap-warga-di-aceh (Accessed April 3, 2018).

[97] “Dua Pria Diduga Pasangan Gay Digerebek Warga Saat ‘Berduaan,’" JawaPos, March 29, 2018, https://www.jawapos.com/read/2018/03/29/200013/dua-pria-diduga-pasangan-gay-digerebek-warga-saat-berduaan (Accessed April 3, 2018).

[98] “Tiga Waria Terjaring Razia,” Tanjung Pinang TV, March 19, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I44E1HDt6uw (accessed April 30, 2018).

[99] “Bintan Jaring Tiga Waria di Lapangan Pamedan,” Batam Today, March 18, 2018, http://batamtoday.com/home/read/107503/Razia-Rutin-Kodim-0315Bintan-Jaring-Tiga-Waria-di-Lapangan-Pamedan (accessed April 30, 2018).

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Bagus H., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[101] Max Walden, “Do Indonesia’s anti-pornography laws protect morals or encourage discrimination and abuse?,” The South China Morning Post, November 10, 2017, http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2119263/do-indonesias-anti-pornography-laws-protect-morals-or-encourage (accessed April 30, 2018).

[102] Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 44 Tahun 2008 Tengang Pornografi, http://www.dpr.go.id/dokjdih/document/uu/UU_2008_44.pdf   

[103] OutRight Action International, “Creeping Criminalization: Mapping of Indonesia’s National Laws and Regional Regulations That Violate Human Rights of Women and LGBTIQ People,” 2016, https://www.outrightinternational.org/sites/default/files/CreepingCriminalisation-eng.pdf.

[104] Jeffrey Hutton, “Indonesia’s Crackdown on Gay Men Moves From Bars Into the Home,” The New York Times, December 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/world/asia/indonesia-gay-raids.html (accessed April 30, 2018).; “Indonesia sentences gay club workers to 2-3 years in prison,” The Associated Press, December 16, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-bc-as--indonesia-gay-trial-20171215-story.html (accessed April 30, 2018).

[105] The court notes that throughout its history “the court has received more judicial review requests seeking to decriminalize [than to criminalize] certain actions or behaviors as regulated in the laws because the criminalization of the actions and behaviors are seen to run contrary to [the protection of] basic human rights and the constituents’ constitutional rights and thereby has to be judicially reviewed by the court because the court’s judicial review authority is indeed aimed at protecting citizens’ constitutional freedoms to keep them from being violated by criminalization policies created by lawmakers.” Republic of Indonesia Constitutional Court, “Decision No 46/PUU-XIV/2016,” December 14, 2017, http://www.mahkamahkonstitusi.go.id/public/content/persidangan/putusan/4...

[106] “After accusation of same-sex marriage support, Indonesian political parties rush to criminalize LGBT,” Coconuts Jakarta, January 22, 2018, https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/accusation-sex-marriage-support-indonesian-political-parties-rush-criminalize-lgbt/ (accessed April 30, 2018).

[107] “Polemik Pernyataan Zulkifli Hasan soal LGBT,” Kumparan, January 22, 2018: https://kumparan.com/@kumparannews/polemik-pernyataan-zulkifli-hasan-soal-lgbt (accessed April 30, 2018).

[108] Vincent Bevins, “Once-tolerant Indonesia moves to outlaw gay — and extramarital — sex,” The Washington Post, February 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/once-tolerant-indonesia-moves-to-outlaw-gay--and-extramarital--sex/2018/02/09/d82b7112-0b79-11e8-998c-96deb18cca19_story.html?utm_term=.b22ccd0acb8f (accessed April 30, 2018).

[109] “Govt proposes to remove 'same sex' from bill on fornication,” The Jakarta Post, May 31, 2018, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/05/31/indonesia-to-remove-same-sex-from-law-on-fornication.html
[110] “New Criminal Code Won't Weaken KPK; Gay Sex to Remain Illegal,” The Jakarta Globe, June 3, 2018, http://jakartaglobe.id/news/new-criminal-code-wont-weaken-kpk-gay-sex-remain-illegal/

[111] See articles 457-459 of the draft criminal code:

Article 457: Every unauthorized individual who, without being requested to, blatantly displays/exhibits contraceptive devices; offering to give these devices to people, broadcasting or writing about these devices or showing people ways to obtain the devices, will be imposed with a first-category fine.

Article 458: Every individual who blatantly displays/exhibits tools for abortion; offering to give these tools to people, broadcasting or writing about these tools, or showing people ways to obtain the tools, will be imposed with a first-category fine.

Article 459: (1) If an individual who committed the acts outlined in articles 457 and 458 were an authorized birth control program officer or someone who worked to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, or an educator who conducted health educational programs, then he or she would not be punished.

(2) The definition of an “authorized program officer” outlined in section (1) also covers competent volunteers assigned by authorized officials [to conduct the programs outlined in section (1).

[112] Human Rights Watch has documented how barriers to purchasing condoms has had a significant negative impact on the HIV epidemic among MSM in the Philippines. See: Human Rights Watch, Fueling the Philippines’ HIV Epidemic

Government Barriers to Condom Use by Men Who Have Sex With Men, December 8, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/12/08/fueling-philippines-hiv-epidemic/government-barriers-condom-use-men-who-have-sex.

[113] John McBeth, “Draconian legislation could transform Indonesia,” Asia Times, March 2, 2018: http://www.atimes.com/article/indonesias-politicians-pose-holier-thou/ (accessed April 30, 2018).

[114] “‘We are not a liberal country,’ says head KUHP drafter,” Jakarta Post, March 17, 2018, http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/03/17/we-are-not-a-liberal-country-says-head-kuhp-drafter.html (accessed April 30, 2018).

[115] Ibid.

[116] Naila Rizqi Zakiah, “A multitude of sins: the revised criminal code,” Indonesia At Melbourne, January 30, 2018, http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/a-multitude-of-sins-the-revis... (accessed April 30, 2018).

[117] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a press conference during his mission to Indonesia,” February 7, 2018, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22638&LangID=E.

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with Kulon B., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with Adika L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Kulon B., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Adika L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with Bagus H., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with Pratam M., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Eka O., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Adika L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Panuta P., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with Bagus H., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with Eka O., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with HIV clinic worker, Yogyakarta, October 30, 2017.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Adika L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with Kulon B., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with Bagus H., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Kemala L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with Panuta P., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Bagus H., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Adika L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[138] Human Rights Watch interview with Panuta P., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with Panuta P., Jakarta, November 28, 2017.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Adika L., Jakarta, November 27, 2017.

[141] United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Born Free and Equal: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in International Human Rights Law,” HR/PUB/12/06, 2012.

[142] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), entered into force January 3, 1976, and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), entered into force March 23, 1976. Indonesia ratified both covenants on February 23, 2006, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted December 18, 1979, G.A. Res. 34/180, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, entered into force September 3, 1981, ratified by Indonesia on September 13, 1984. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990, ratified by Indonesia on September 5, 1990.

[143] ICCPR, articles 2 and 26 (affirming the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination); and article 17 (protecting the right to privacy). See UN Human Rights Committee, Toonen v. Australia, 50th Sess., Communication No. 488/1992, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/50/D/488/1992, April 14, 1994, sec. 8.7.

[144] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 35: Article 9 (Liberty and security of person), para. 3.

[145]ICESCR, article 12; CEDAW, article 12.

[146] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, (Art 12), E/C.12/2000/4, (August. 11, 2000) General Comment no. 14, on the normative content of article 12 of the ICESCR, para. 9.

[147] Ibid., para. 3.

[148] Ibid., para. 18.

[149] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (art. 12).

[150] ICCPR, articles 2, 7 and 17.

[151] CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 28 on the Core Obligations of States Parties under Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, /C/2010/47/GC.2, October 19, 2010, para. 19.

[152] United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Human Rights Council Report, “Fundamentalism’s Impact On Peaceful Assembly And Association Rights,” June 2016, A/HRC/32/36.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Indonesian authorities are fueling an HIV epidemic through complicity in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The government’s failure to halt arbitrary and unlawful raids by police and militant Islamists on private LGBT gatherings has effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to vulnerable populations.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Indonesian authorities are fueling an HIV epidemic through complicity in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The government’s failure to halt arbitrary and unlawful raids by police and militant Islamists on private LGBT gatherings has effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to vulnerable populations.

Indonesian authorities are fueling an HIV epidemic through complicity in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The government’s failure to halt arbitrary and unlawful raids by police and militant Islamists on private LGBT gatherings has effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to vulnerable populations.

The 70-page report, “‘Scared in Public and Now No Privacy’: Human Rights and Public Health Impacts of Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Moral Panic,” documents how hateful rhetoric has translated into unlawful action by Indonesian authorities – sometimes in collaboration with militant Islamist groups – against people presumed to be LGBT. Based on in-depth interviews with victims and witnesses, health workers, and activists, this report updates a Human Rights Watch August 2016 report that documented the sharp rise in anti-LGBT attacks and rhetoric in Indonesia that began that year. It examines major incidents between November 2016 and June 2018, and the far-reaching impact of this anti-LGBT “moral panic” on the lives of sexual and gender minorities and the serious consequences for public health in the country.

“The Indonesian government’s failure to address anti-LGBT moral panic is having dire consequences for public health,” said Kyle Knight, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The Indonesian government should recognize that its role in abuses against LGBT people is seriously compromising the country’s response to HIV.”

Beginning in early 2016, politicians, government officials, and state offices issued anti-LGBT statements – calling for everything from criminalization to “cures” for homosexuality, to censorship of information related to LGBT individuals and positive reporting on their activities.

The government’s response to the country’s HIV epidemic in recent decades has helped slow the number of new infections. However, widespread stigma and discrimination against populations at risk of HIV, as well as people living with HIV, has discouraged some HIV-vulnerable populations from accessing prevention and treatment services. As a result, HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) have increased five-fold since 2007 from 5 percent to 25 percent. And while the majority of new HIV infections in Indonesia occur through heterosexual transmission, one-third of new infections occur in MSM.

The anti-LGBT moral panic and unlawful police raids have made public health outreach to the most at-risk populations far more difficult making wider spread of the virus more likely, Human Rights Watch said.

Throughout 2017, Indonesian police raided saunas, night clubs, hotel rooms, hair salons, and private homes on suspicion that LGBT people were inside. In total, police apprehended at least 300 people in 2017 alone because of their presumed sexual orientation and gender identity – a spike from previous years and the highest such number ever recorded in Indonesia.

Nigrat L., a 47-year-old transgender woman outreach worker in Jakarta said, “Violence will always be there – it always has been with us. It’s just part of our lives. It’s normal. We just know it as our bad luck that day, and maybe tomorrow too, or maybe tomorrow will be better.”

The raids sometimes were preceded by police surveillance of social media accounts to discover an event’s location, and at times featured officers marching unclothed detainees in front of the media, public humiliation, and moralizing presentations of condoms as evidence of illegal behavior. Three police raids in 2017 shut down MSM HIV outreach “hot spots,” places where outreach workers would routinely meet and counsel MSM, as well as provide condoms and voluntary HIV tests. In at least two of the well-publicized raids, in Surabaya and West Java, police openly used condoms as evidence in exposing and humiliating MSM detainees in the media.

“It is devastating that these clubs have closed – they were the only places where we could find the community,” said an HIV outreach worker in Jakarta. “Clubs were hot spots for us because we knew that even the discreet guys felt safe about their sexuality inside, so we could do HIV testing and give condoms and they wouldn’t be scared to participate.” Another outreach worker said that “we see more and more MSM waiting to get really sick before they seek help or even ask questions about HIV.”

In December 2017, Indonesia’s constitutional court rejected a petition that had sought to criminalize sex outside of marriage as well as adult consensual same-sex conduct specifically, calling the case “legally unsound” and warning against over-criminalization. Meanwhile beginning in January 2018, versions of the draft Criminal Code that featured troubling proposed provisions on criminalizing consensual sexual relations began circulating through various parliamentary committees. The government representative on the drafting task force has since expressed opposition to outright criminalization of same-sex conduct, but sex outside of marriage remains a criminal offense in the draft.

After a February visit to Indonesia, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights stated that “LGBTI Indonesians already face increasing stigma, threats and intimidation. … The hateful rhetoric against this community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions.”

“The vitriolic anti-LGBT rhetoric from public officials that began in early 2016 effectively granted social sanction and political cover to violence and discrimination,” Knight said. “To correct its course, the government needs to uphold its commitments to ‘unity in diversity’ by halting and investigating unlawful police raids and ensure discrimination is not enshrined in its laws.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Indonesian authorities are fueling an HIV epidemic through complicity in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The government’s failure to halt arbitrary and unlawful raids by police and militant Islamists on private LGBT gatherings has effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to vulnerable populations.

The men were nearly identically dressed. Matching fresh crewcuts almost hidden under baseball caps pulled down to shade their eyes, pollution masks covering their faces, and matching dark t-shirts.

You would be forgiven for thinking they were on their way to do something illegal, especially if you spoke with them and realized how on edge they were, nervously looking around and stopping their conversation whenever a security guard on his usual patrols came near.

But these men, who work to prevent HIV in vulnerable populations in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, were simply meeting the Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono and his cameraman for a pre-arranged interview about a new report, “Scared in Public and Now No Privacy,” which looks at the rising anti-LGBT hysteria in Indonesia, and what that means for public health. HIV rates among men who have sex with men in Indonesia have increased five-fold since 2007, from 5 percent to 25 percent. And while the majority of new HIV infections in Indonesia occur through heterosexual transmission, one-third of new infections occur in men who have sex with men.

For over two years now, politicians and government officials in Indonesia have been whipping up the public into an anti-LGBT fury. What started in 2016 as hateful rhetoric has now become violent actions, with raids by police and militant Islamists on places they suspect LGBT people are socializing. This has included raids on everything from gay clubs, to the private homes of suspected lesbians, to waria (transgender women) community events.

The atmosphere of fear and moves to break up safe gathering spaces is having devastating health consequences. HIV outreach workers are struggling to locate the people who need their help – which comes in the form of condom distribution, blood testing, education, and psychological counselling.

The masked men – who asked not to be named to protect their identities – had arranged to meet Harsono outside the now-shuttered T1 nightclub. The men used to work inside and outside the club – giving out condoms and educational pamphlets, and providing some counselling. There was even a mobile clinic where at-risk people could go for blood tests and counselling services.

“It turned out they’d been looking at us from a distance to check us out,” Harsono said. “They had been walking around the area to make sure it was safe.”

They are courageous and persistent.

Andreas Harsono

Indonesia Researcher at Human Rights Watch

When the men eventually approached, they stood out because of their appearance in the business neighborhood where T1 used to be. Harsono took them into a restaurant to shield them. But it was Ramadan, so the two HIV outreach workers did not order food, and the atmosphere remained stressful.

“I was so shocked by their concealed appearance, but of course they were doing it because they were nervous,” Harsono said, adding that it seemed the men were traumatized because hundreds of LGBT people had been arrested in recent raids on nightclubs and in private homes.

“People have been sentenced to 18 to 30 months in prison after being arrested in these raids.”

In 2017, police apprehended at least 300 people perceived to be LGBT – the highest number of such arrests ever recorded in Indonesia. In some cases, if they were carrying condoms, that was used as evidence of homosexuality. That leads people to decide against carrying condoms, which only adds to the HIV epidemic.

When the clubs were open, the outreach workers were easily able to make contact with men at-risk of HIV, but now with the safe spaces shuttered and networks scattered, there are risks of an even bigger spike in HIV rates.

Police officers sit outside a court in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

The fear the crackdown is causing is palpable. “A security man came by when we were discussing the film shoot, just on his normal rounds, and they were so scared,” Harsono said. “They were terrified he would come over and see them. It says so much about the feeling in Jakarta now.”

The anti-LGBT rhetoric has had a deep impact on society in Indonesia. In a 2016 opinion poll, 26 percent of those interviewed said they didn’t like LGBT people. It was the largest percentage for any group.  By 2017, that number was even higher.

“In February 2016 the minister of defense even said the LGBT movement was more dangerous than nuclear war.”

But despite the shrinking space and the very real risk to their safety and freedom, some outreach workers like the two men Harsono spoke to are still trying to make a difference to communities at-risk of HIV.

“They are turning to social networks and the internet,” Harsono said, “I’m really amazed to see how these workers are adapting. They know that they can be arrested, stopped by the police, stopped by security every time they are seen to be chatting with transgender women, but they are courageous and persistent.”

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

LGBT rights activists hold a rainbow flag during a transgender pride parade which was banned by the governor’s office, in central Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2016.

© 2016 REUTERS/Osman Orsal/Axel Schmidt
Istanbul’s sixteenth Pride March is set to take place on July 1. But even as the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community (LGBTI) and supporters prepare to celebrate next week, it is unclear whether they will be free to do so.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office has banned the Pride March since 2015, citing security concerns and the need to uphold public order. It has also invoked the excuse that selected locations were not suitable for public assemblies. Nevertheless, in recent years, some people tried to gather in spite of the bans, and police responded harshly, using excessive force to arrest and disperse participants.

Far-right and ultra-nationalist groups have also attempted to stop LGBTI people from marching, citing public morality and values. Authorities have perversely used these threats as further justification to ban the march.

Banning LGBTI activities and events is becoming routine and widespread in Turkey. Bans on the Istanbul Pride March and Trans Pride March have been followed by the Ankara Governor’s November 2017 ban on all LGBTI-related events in the city and the cancellation of LGBTI events in several other cities in Turkey.

LGBTI and human rights activists have filed several criminal complaints against these government bans and various threatening groups. Restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly, and association for LGBTI people in Turkey not only violate those fundamental human rights, but place Turkey in violation of its international obligations.

As a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey should adhere to the Council’s standards to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. A 2010 recommendation provides that members states should ensure everyone can enjoy their freedom of peaceful assembly without any discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also says governments should not misuse legal and administrative provisions to impose restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly on grounds of public health, public morality, and public order.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office should lift its arbitrary bans and allow the Pride March to take place this year. Turkey has an obligation to ensure LGBTI people are able to fully enjoy their rights to peaceful freedom of expression, association and assembly free of discrimination. Law enforcement authorities assigned to uphold public order should remember they are there to protect those participating in the march.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Ghanaians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) suffer widespread discrimination and abuse both in public and in family settings.

A UN expert on Friday urged Ghana’s government to decriminalize adult consensual same-sex conduct to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The expert, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Phillip Alston, also expressed concern about how stigma and discrimination against LGBT people undermines their ability to find meaningful work. Alston presented his report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Conversations I had with numerous LGBT people in Ghana underscored the urgency of legalizing adult consensual same-sex conduct. For example, a 26-year-old lesbian described the frustration she felt when her employer fired her after he found out she was a lesbian. A 28-year-old lesbian echoed these sentiments, saying “the problem in Accra is that LGBT people can’t get jobs, nobody wants to hire them, and when family members find out about your sexual orientation, they don’t pay your school fees.”

While visiting Ghana in April, Alston found that “stigmatization and discrimination make it impossible for [LGBT] individuals to become productive members of the community when disclosure of their sexual orientation is likely to lead to them being thrown out of their jobs, schools, homes, and even their communities.”

While interviewing LGBT people in Ghana In December 2016 and February 2017, I found that while people are rarely prosecuted, the law criminalizing same sex conduct contributes to violence against LGBT people and gives tacit state approval for anti-LGBT discrimination when it comes to employment, education and health services. The combination of criminalization and stigma produces severe economic consequences for LGBT Ghanaians.

Several LGBT people told Human Rights Watch that the lack of work has forced them to rely on sex work to survive. “The government should recognize that we are human beings, with dignity, not treat us as outcasts in our own society,” said a 40-year old lesbian from Cape Coast. “We want to be free, so we can stand tall in public – this will make it easier for us to get an education, learn a trade, get jobs and be useful and productive Ghanaians.”

Ghana’s government should decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct and act swiftly to protect LGBT people from discrimination, intimidation, and violence. Ghanaian authorities should also engage in a constructive dialogue with the LGBT population to better understand its needs, and ensure they are protected by labor laws and anti-discrimination policies.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A Roma settlement in Troyeshchina district of Kyiv.

© 2018 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

(Kyiv) – Ultranationalists attacked a Roma settlement near Lviv in western Ukraine on June 23, 2018, killing one person and injuring several, including one child.

According to media reports, this is the sixth attack on Roma settlements in Ukraine in the last two months – one other in Lviv, one in Ternopil also western Ukraine, and three in Kyiv.

“This attack should be a final wake-up call for Ukraine’s police to take decisive action against hate crimes,” said Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Radical groups have not been held accountable for their attacks on Roma people, which could not but have emboldened them to commit more attacks. Now someone is dead.”

Ukraine's authorities have not responded adequately to the growing number of violent attacks and threats promoting hate and discrimination in Ukraine by members of violent radical groups. 

A group of men in masks attacked the settlement, in the woods near Lviv, late in the evening of June 23. Media reports said that the attackers were armed with knives and killed a 24-year-old man, and seriously injured four more people – a 10-year old boy, two 19-year old men, and a 30-year old woman.

The suspects are reported to be members of a radical group called Sober and Angry Youth. Some members of this group have ties to the former volunteer battalion Azov, which fought in eastern Ukraine and is implicated in numerous allegations of unlawful detention, torture, and other abuses.

Police have arrested seven suspects, all Lviv residents. Authorities opened a criminal case into the murder, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years. According to an Interior Ministry spokesperson, the police were also investigating other violations, including offences under part 3 of article 161, which outlaws “violation of equality of citizens due to their racial and national identity or religious beliefs.”

Sergiy Knyazev, the head of Ukraine’s National Police, issued a statement condemning the attack and promising that those responsible would be held accountable. He also said that the National Police and the Interior Ministry were monitoring the investigation. He admitted that such attacks had become more frequent and called the attackers “immoral” and the attack “unjustifiable.”

Since the beginning of 2018, human rights groups have documented at least two dozen violent attacks, threats, or instances of intimidation by radical groups such as C14, Right Sector, Traditsiya i Poryadok (Tradition and Order), Karpatska Sich and others against Roma people, LGBT people and activists and rights activists in several Ukrainian cities.

Law enforcement authorities have rarely opened investigations. In the cases in which they did, there is no indication that authorities took effective investigative measures to identify the attackers, even in cases in which the assailants publicly claimed responsibility on social media.

Media reports indicate that some municipal administrations have recruited people from groups that promote hatred and discrimination to conduct “policing activities” during peaceful protests.

On June 14, Human Rights Watch together with Freedom House, Amnesty International, and Front Line Defenders released an open letter addressed to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and General Prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko. The groups condemned the growing number of hate crimes in Ukraine and the impunity for those responsible, calling on Ukraine’s law-enforcement to take urgent steps to stop and punish those responsible for attacks.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church condemned the attack in a statement on its website and called on the authorities to investigate and hold those responsible accountable “so every person in Ukraine regardless of their national, ethnic, and religious identity could feel as a worthy and equal citizen of their country.”

The US embassy in Kyiv and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe also condemned the attack and called for justice.

“The immediate action by Ukrainian police is reassuring, but more needs to be done to stop hate crimes and prevent more deaths,” Cooper said. “Until Ukraine’s law-enforcement starts holding these and other attackers accountable for their crimes, people in Ukraine will not feel protected by the state.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

June is Pride Month in many parts of the world, commemorating the Stonewall uprising of June 1969, when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in New York stood up against police brutality and injustice and demanded fair treatment.

Throughout Pride Month, LGBT people and their allies celebrate their accomplishments achieved since Stonewall, but they also advocate for what needs to be done in order to secure full equal rights and non-discrimination in their own countries and in solidarity with LGBT people elsewhere, in situations where anti-LGBT discrimination and violence are rampant.

Marriage equality remains an issue at the forefront of Pride.

In celebration of Pride Month, Human Rights Watch is launching a new resource: a map that provides an overview of countries with marriage equality, civil unions or registered partnership; links to the relevant legislation; and, where possible, a brief explanation of the path – legislative, judicial, or other – that these countries took to achieve marriage equality or to provide for same-sex civil unions or registered partnership.

As legal situations change in countries, this map will be updated.

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to open civil marriage to same-sex couples. Other countries followed. Today there are 25 countries with marriage equality, with Austria, Taiwan and Chile expected to join the list soon.

An additional sixteen countries have made civil unions or registered partnerships available for same-sex couples. In some cases, civil unions or registered partnership provide all the same rights and responsibilities of civil marriage and differ in name only; countries with such laws include Croatia, Greece, Slovenia and Switzerland. In other cases, civil unions provide some, but not all, of these rights.

There are causes to celebrate during Pride Month, as laws and policies continue to improve LGBT rights around the world.

We hope this map will assist those who are looking for this type of information. If you have additional information, you can contact Human Rights Watch via lgbt@hrw.org.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am