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Indonesian province under fire over LGBT ban

South Sulawesi issues order to keep LGBT influences out of educational institutions

Anti-LGBT demonstrators march in Bogor,  in Indonesia's West Java province on Nov 9, 2018

Anti-LGBT demonstrators march in Bogor,  in Indonesia's West Java province on Nov 9, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 24, 2022 03:37 AM GMT

Updated: August 24, 2022 04:05 AM GMT

Authorities in Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province have come under fire from advocacy groups and the Church for issuing an order to prevent the influence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in education institutes.

The province issued the circular on Aug. 22, days after Hasanuddin University in Makassar expelled a new male student who allegedly claimed to be non-binary, an umbrella term for gender identities that are not solely male or female‍.

About 89.64 percent of the province’s estimated 8.26 million people are Muslims.

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The expulsion reportedly took place on Aug. 19, shortly after the student posted a video on social media to make the claims, which went viral.

The university later apologized following public protests and promised not to discriminate against any student. The expelled student was taken back.

The circular says that the government asks campuses and schools to "introduce policies to prevent the spread of ideas, thoughts, and attitudes that support LGBT people." 

"If deemed necessary, legal action should be taken against them"

It also asked them to take firm action, including the imposition of sanctions on those involved in activities with the LGBT community.

"[They also need to] provide understanding to students about the negative effects of LGBT activities,” it said.

It said that lecturers and teachers and education personnel as well as students who are affiliated or directly related to the LGBT community “need to be reported to the authorities and if deemed necessary, legal action should be taken against them.”

The government also urged parents "to always provide the understanding and protect their children from the tendency of mindsets and behaviors that support the existence of LGBT people in various aspects of social life."

Hendrika Mayora Victoria, 35, a Catholic transgender person and coordinator of the LGBT advocacy group, Fajar Sikka, said the circular was the "institutionalization of discrimination."

"It is also unfortunate that such discrimination targets educational institutions that should foster a spirit of respect for diversity," she told UCA News.

“I believe that this circular will trigger violence against LGBT groups"

She said the circular contradicted the government's commitment to fighting various forms of violence in schools.

“I believe that this circular will trigger violence against LGBT groups, including bullying. This is a policy product of homophobic people," she said.

She stated that LGBT groups in Indonesia do not expect legal recognition "because we also know that it will be difficult."

"We are realistic and therefore only hope that our existence is appreciated," she said.

The Union of Journalists for Diversity stressed that educational institutions “are academic and intellectual spaces where views, ideologies, beliefs, and identities of any kind are legitimate for peaceful discussion.”

"The choice of gender identity and expression is a freedom that should be respected and upheld with dignity in educational institutions," it said.

"87.6 percent of Indonesians consider LGBT people as a threat"

Indonesia does not criminalize LGBT people nationally. However, some regions have regulations targeting the community.

In December last year, Bogor city in West Java province passed a regulation on the prevention and control of sexually deviant behavior.

LGBT rights group, Arus Pelangi, said it recorded 172 cases of persecution of LGBT people including intimidation, physical and verbal abuse, and maltreatment between 2006 to 2017.

A survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting in 2018 found that 87.6 percent of Indonesians consider LGBT people as a threat.

It also found that 81.5 percent think that homosexuality was prohibited by religion, 80 percent objected to LGBT people being their neighbors and 90 percent did not want LBGT people to become public officials.

Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council for Catholic Education, said the circular might trigger abuse of LGBT people.

"It has the potential to be used as a tool to legitimize the persecution of LGBT people," he said.

"In my opinion, the government should base its attitude on values that support the spirit of respecting the human rights of every individual, including the LGBT people, and distances themselves from exclusionary views."

He said the central government, especially the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology needs to take a stand on this issue.

"Don't let the same pattern be followed by other regions," he said.

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