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ASEAN Lawmakers Decry Indonesia’s ‘Rising Tide of Intolerance’

Regional Rights Group Warns of Religious Hatred, Vigilantism Imperiling Democracy

Muslim protesters hold an anti-LGBT rally outside a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia on February 2, 2018. © 2018 Antara Foto / Irwansyah Putra
The Indonesian government’s failure to address growing intolerance for religious minorities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has drawn renewed criticism from Southeast Asian lawmakers.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a nongovernmental grouping of current and former elected representatives from Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries, warned this week that a “rising tide of intolerance” against those vulnerable minorities “threatens Indonesia’s democratic success.” The organization called on the Indonesian government “to put human rights at the center of efforts to address religious hatred and vigilantism.”

The APHR’s criticism comes at a time when religious minorities are at heightened risk from discriminatory regulations that hinder their right to religious freedom. Those laws include the 1965 blasphemy law, which punishes deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia’s six officially recognized religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism – with up to five years in prison.  Recent targets of the blasphemy law include three former leaders of the Gafatar religious community following the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the group from farms on Kalimantan island in 2016, as well as former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama, who a court sentenced to a two-year prison term for blasphemy in May 2017 because of a reference he made to a Quranic verse in September 2016.

The APHR’s concerns about “vigilantism” point to increasing incidents over the past two years in which Indonesian police have openly collaborated with militant Islamists to unlawfully target LGBT people. Last year, the police arrested more than 300 LGBT people in raids of private gay clubs, lesbian-owned houses, and other private venues across Indonesia. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s parliament is deliberating a new criminal code, the current draft of which would criminalize consensual sex between two unmarried persons, effectively making all same-sex relations illegal.

The APHR joins a growing chorus of international concern, including that of United Nations member states, about the Indonesian government’s failure to address increasing threats to vulnerable minorities. Until President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recognizes Indonesia’s obligation to protect the rights of all minorities, their safety will be at risk.

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