Indonesian authorities have sent more than 2,000 members of a religious sect back to their home island of Java for “re-education” following a public outcry over their activities. Continue reading “Gafatar sect members taken to Java amid public outcry”
The governor of Bali called same-sex marriage a stain on the mainly Hindu island, after photos of a gay couple celebrating their union appeared on the internet.
“It should never happen in Bali, even more so involving Hinduism, because it’s strictly forbidden,” Governor Made Mangku Pastika was quoted as saying by the Merdeka.com news website.
“It’s a stain and it’s a taboo,” he said.
The controversy emerged after photos of an apparent ceremony involving a gay couple – one man appearing to be local and the other foreign – were posted on Facebook.
One of the photos shows what looks like a Hindu priest standing in front of the couple.
A friend of the couple’s family said it was “a reception held for family and friends and not a legal marriage ceremony.”
Young couples in Purwakarta regency will have to marry each other immediately if caught alone after 9 pm, to prevent pre-marital sex, the regent said. Continue reading “Young Purwakarta lovers threatened with marriage if caught alone after 9 PM”
Banda Aceh – As a transvestite in Indonesia’s devoutly Muslim province of Aceh, Fanny sometimes has to put up with harassment and social discrimination.
But after the local government issued a new set of Islamic laws regulating private morality in September, she fears worse things will happen.
“We fear that people will take the law into their own hands,” said Fanny, who is a leader of a semi-underground LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sex and transgender) group in Aceh.
In September, the provincial legislature approved an Islamic criminal code, known as qanun jinayat.
Under the law, due to take effect on October 10, 2015, sex out of wedlock and same-sex sexual acts are punishable by 100 lashes of the cane, or 100 months in prison.
The current laws ban gambling, alcohol and being alone with someone of the opposite sex while unmarried, but do not specifically regulate sexual acts.
Fanny, 31, said even before the new laws were passed, she and fellow transgenders had already experienced harassment and discrimination.
Health workers were often reluctant to serve her when she sought treatment in hospital and she had trouble opening a bank account, she said.
“They often give me a strange look or lecture about morality,” said Fanny, who wears a headscarf to conform to sharia requirements.
She said people like her had to deal with taunts from males and had very few job opportunities, forcing many of them to resort to working as hairdressers at salons.
But even as hairdressers, they are banned under sharia to serve women.
With the new laws, she and other members of the transexual and gay community had decided to lie low, she said.
“We have a dicussion among us and we agreed we should not go out at night very often, just once or twice every week,” Fanny said.
“Our strategy is not to be too visible to avoid trouble,” she said.
Gay rights activists say the new laws could be used as a pretext to harrass sexual minorities.
“Qanun jinayat is a nightmare for the LGBT community,” said Faisal Reza, an Acehnese gay rights activist who now lives in Jakarta.
“It can be interpreted as a license to target people whose sexual orientation is different from them,” he said.
Being a homosexual or transgender is not a crime under the law because only sexual acts can be prosecuted.
But Acehnese clerics often refer to the Biblical towns of Sodom and Gomorrah to denounce homosexuals.
Transvestites are generally tolerated in Aceh, even though they are often stigmatized as sex workers.
“The LGBT community is small in Aceh and as long as they don’t engage in illegal acts, no action will be taken against them,” said Munawar Djalil, the chief of the legal affairs department at the provincial Sharia Office.
Attacks on sexual minorities in Aceh have occurred in the past.
Last year, residents in Banda Aceh rounded up two teenage girls they believed to be lesbians after they spent time alone in a house.
The two were later released after being questioned briefly by police.
The once-rebellious Aceh has long been known as a staunchly Muslim region and is nicknamed “The Veranda of Mecca.”
The central government granted Aceh special autonomy in 2002 to mollify desires for independence, allowing the province to impose its version of sharia laws.
Jakarta and separatist rebels signed a peace pact in 2005, ending decades of conflict that killed 15,000 people, mostly civilians. The deal was spurred by the Indian Ocean tsunami a year earlier that killed more than 170,000 people in Aceh.
Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the mayor of Banda Aceh, said the Islamic law was needed to address what she calls a “moral tsunami.”
“Because of globalization, there has been a shift in behaviour among Acehnese youth, some kind of a moral tsunami,” said Illiza, the first female mayor of Banda Aceh.
“We are facing the problems of HIV/AIDS and drugs. This is a challenge for us because even one person with bad morals is a problem for society,” she said.
She said she was concerned that gays and lesbians were increasingly bold about their sexuality.
“They are very open and they are not ashamed, maybe because they are faithless,” she said.
But her government is ready to provide counseling for people like them, she said.
In Banda Aceh, the olive-uniformed religious police, known as Wilayatul Hisbah, patrol the streets in two shifts everyday.
They stop to reprimand unmarried couples being alone in parks and Muslim women who are not wearing the hijab head coverings.
During a routine patrol one afternoon, a group of six religious police was scolded by a woman who worked at a beauty parlor in Banda Aceh’s Pinayung market.
“Why do you keep bothering us?” the woman asked in a loud, angry voice.
“Do you think your mother owns this place? Get lost!” she said, to the awkward silence of the policemen. The officers left without getting out of their Toyota pickup truck.
Marwan Hasan, the leader of the group, the place had been caught serving male customers in the past.
“We don’t get that kind of treatment very often, but we have to be patient in dealing with people,” he said. “Maybe she’s upset because business is not doing well.”
Jakarta – The Nusa Indah shop in Jakarta is chock-a-block with shoppers during lunchtime. It sells delicacies from all over Indonesia to customers trying to follow an old – but to many young people, annoying – Indonesian tradition.
They buy sambal rudi, a chili paste from Surabaya, or bakpia, a cake from Yogyakarta, and present them to friends and family as gifts from their travels. That is to satisfy the demands for oleh-oleh, a gift-giving tradition that is quintessentially Indonesian.
“Where is my oleh-oleh?” is a familiar line every Indonesian has heard when returning from a trip, be it domestic, international or even a religious pilgrimage.
Indriati Octarina, a mother of three who lives in Jakarta, thinks it is okay to ask friends or relatives for gifts from their trips.
“It makes me feel happy to know that people still remember us while they are travelling,” she says.
But some travellers are weary of it.
“My friends used to ask me for oleh-oleh all the time,” says Safir Makki, a photojournalist based in Jakarta. “It used to put me in a bind: either I drained my money buying oleh-oleh, or I felt bad for not having bought any.”
It also causes stress.
“A friend in Jakarta pushed me to buy her a bag when I was in Singapore, although I told her my money was very limited. She asked me to use my credit card and said she would pay me back later,” Jakarta dentist Erni Pujianti says.
“Some senior colleagues in my office would asked me to bring up to 10 kilograms of fresh shrimp or crab when I travel to the eastern part of Indonesia, giving me a headache,” says Purwanti, an engineer who often travels throughout the vast archipelago.
“They don’t care if I have to pay for extra baggage, and I just couldn’t say no,” she says.
The oleh-oleh custom goes back to when travelling was considered a rich person’s hobby. In earlier days, those who could afford to travel, especially overseas, were perceived as wealthy; they could share some of their fortune by bringing back gifts.
But the emergence of low-cost airlines over the past decade has changed the picture. Most people can afford to travel now, but do not necessarily have enough money to buy gifts.
“I finally said enough! I am not travelling to bring back oleh-oleh,” Makki says he told friends and family.
But the demands keep coming, especially because he often travels to exotic destinations like Iran, Nepal or Sri Lanka.
“I told them if they will pay, I will bring them items they want,” he says. While travelling, he posts photos of items suitable as oleh-oleh on Facebook, with the prices. Whoever is interested, will have to pay.
Shops like Nusa Indah provide an even more convenient way around the oleh-oleh tradition.
“We have customers who are too busy to get oleh-oleh when they travel, so they buy it here,” owner Ibu Hartati explains.
Crowds in her shop are ever growing. Nearly buried under a pile of snacks on her simple counter, she prepares customer bills with her old calculator and accepts cash only.
“We were too busy during our trip to central and East Java to buy oleh-oleh. But it would be awkward not to bring some gifts to family and friends, so this place is the answer,” Ahmad Zulkarnain says as he purchases layer cakes and crackers with his wife Yulianti.
Several shops in the Tanah Abang area of Jakarta offer oleh-oleh options especially for those who have been on pilgrimage to Mecca, and did not bring home the obligatory gifts. The shops have prayer rugs, dates, hijabs as well as “holy water” from Mecca, all “made in Saudi-Arabia.”
“When I went on the pilgrimage, I bought all the oleh-oleh in Tanah Abang, because I wanted to focus on my worship during hajj and not be burdened by buying gifts,” confesses Rahayuningsih, a 60-year-old housewife in Jakarta.
“I gave the gifts I bought in Tanah Abang to friends and relatives, and they couldn’t tell the difference,” she says, giggling.
She saved time, but not money, she said. The gifts she bought were lavish.
“I don’t want people to think that I’m stingy.”