Professor Douglas Sanders
Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Former Visiting Professor, Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; Academic Associate, Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Bangkok. Resident in Thailand since 2003
Many were startled by what was called an ‘unprecedented flood’ of homophobic statements from Indonesian cabinet ministers and other officials that began in early 2016. This “spiraling intolerance of LGBT people and issues” started, it seemed, with statements from the Minister of Technology, Research and Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir in January. He was reacting to the existence of an unofficial LGBT “Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies” on the campus of the University of Indonesia, the country’s leading post-secondary institution, located in greater Jakarta. He said that LGBT elements should be excluded from universities as there were “values and moral standards to uphold…”
…Muhammad Nasir said the LGBTIQ community should be barred from university campuses as they corrupted the morals of the nation when a university was meant to uphold moral values and the values of the ancestors of Indonesia. The statement was followed by various responses from other officials, including Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Anies Baswedan, People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Zulifli Hasan, House of Representatives member Rene Marliawali and Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, who all made similar discriminatory statements against LGBTIQ people.
And there was much, much more – from ordering social media to drop LGBT themed ‘emoticons’, the little symbols that could be attached to tweets and messages – to calls for a new criminal law and compulsory treatment. Why were so many leading figures suddenly expressing hostile views in diverse, sprawling Indonesia?