As the world marked the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on Thursday, recent events have revealed the “many homophobic Indonesians” among the world’s most populous Muslim nation, a sociologist has said.
Dede Oetomo, a sociologist from Surabaya-based Airlangga University, said that “it is very painful to see the number of Indonesians who still shamelessly harass people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] community.”
The international day was founded at the 2006 international homosexual and human rights activist conference in Montreal, Canada.
Dede added, however, that there was a silver lining, referring to a delegation from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) who will review the human rights situation in Indonesia from May 21 to June 4.
“I am sure they will evaluate the recent events in the country, particularly the fact that the authorities seem to have washed their hands of the situation,” Dede, a gay-rights activist, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Introduced in 2006, the quadrennial review is a part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to evaluate the human rights records of the UN’s 192 member nations,
A book discussion featuring Canadian writer Irshad Manji, held at the Salihara cultural center in Jakarta on May 5, was broken up by the Jakarta Police who claimed the organizers had failed to apply for a permit to invite a foreign national to a public meeting.
However, dozens of people, claiming to be local residents, who protested the event claimed that their opposition to Manji, who is openly lesbian, was due to her viewpoint that Islam should accept homosexuality, an opinion that they deemed “unacceptable”.
Munarman, a spokesman for the notorious hardline group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), insisted that “not a single religion in the world endorses lesbianism or homosexuality.”
“If there are people who support lesbianism and homosexuality, then they are demented and sick people. Let’s imagine someone promoted corruption, wouldn’t people reject him?” he said.
Commenting on this, Dede, one of the candidates for commissioner on Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said that he still believed many Indonesian citizens tolerated the existence of LGBT people.
The international celebration, known as IDAHO, took place in several countries around the world.
About two dozen people rode bikes through downtown Tirana, Albania, in a public demonstration promoting gay rights, the Associated Press reported.
In other countries such as South Korea, Iran, Australia, Russia, Ireland, Germany, Estonia, Ukraine, Italy, Greece and the UK, activists released colorful balloons into the air as a symbolic move to combat homophobia.
The international day’s official website, www.dayagainsthomophobia.org, reported on Thursday however that police in Fiji had denied a permit for the country’s gay activists to commemorate the day.
Previously in March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked UN members to immediately end prejudicial practices against LGBT people.
US President Barack Obama recently declared his support for gay marriage despite strong opposition from conservatives.