Indonesia | Twelve “suspected lesbians” evicted from their homes


Jakarta, capital of Indonesia

Police in Indonesia have conducted a raid on the homes of 12 “suspected lesbians”, immediately forcing them from the area.

According to Human Rights Watch, officers raided a residential compound in West Java province’s Tugu Jaya village on 2 September.

The action 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 reportedly demanded that the women immediately relocate from the area without providing any legal justification for the order.

“What’s most offensive about this incident is that police and government officials steamrolled privacy rights and rule of law to appease the bigotry of a few neighbours,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Evicting these women based on prejudiced assumptions of their sexual identity threatens the privacy of all Indonesians and has no place in a country whose motto is ‘unity in diversity.’”

Human Rights Watch research found that 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 neighbourhood where the women live in Tugu Jaya, sought to justify the raid by saying that the women were “unsettling the public.”

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 [Islamic law]. It’s obscene.” The women’s whereabouts are currently unknown and Human Rights Watch has been unable to contact them.

A growing wave of abuse against LGBT people

The organisation said the forced eviction fits into a pattern of discrimination and unlawful use of force by police against LGBT people. In her 2013 report on Indonesia, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing noted a pattern of forced evictions of LGBT people in the country.

There have been at least four raids on LGBT people in private settings in 2017 alone. On March 28, unidentified vigilantes forcibly entered an apartment in Aceh province and took two men in their twenties to the police for allegedly having same-sex relations. Two months later, authorities publicly flogged the men.

On 30 April, police raided a private gathering of gay and bisexual men in the city of Surabaya, arrested and detained 14 of them, and subjected them to HIV tests without their consent. On 21 May, police raided the Atlantis Spa in Jakarta, arrested 141 people, and charged 10 for holding an alleged sex party.

And on 8 June, police apprehended five “suspected lesbians” and ordered their parents to supervise them – and shared a video of the raid and the names of the five women with reporters.

Despite Indonesia’s reputation as a moderate Islamic country, there’s been an alarming spike in arrests, abuse and discrimination against LGBT people since January 2016. This has included harassment and arrests, abuse and intimidation by religious groups and homophobic condemnations and inflammatory statements by officials.

In October last year, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told the BBC that the police must protect LGBTI people and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone”. Matters have only escalated since he made the statement and Widodo has remained silent on the issue.

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