Tag: United Development Party (PPP)

Indonesian LGBT community wins respite from criminalization

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Indonesia can breathe a sigh of relief, at least temporarily, as the House of Representatives has put on hold for the next few months the passage of revisions to the Criminal Code which include articles that would criminalize gay sex and extramarital sex.

Teuku Taufiqulhadi, a member of the House of Representatives’ working committee deliberating the bill, said the revisions were almost final but some articles required approval from different factions in Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, justice, human rights and security.

The bill was previously scheduled to be passed into law through the House’s plenary session in February but was sidelined after a public outcry over several controversial articles, as lawmakers and government were finalizing the 12-year deliberation to amend the penal code originally written by the Dutch during the colonial era.

“We are giving more time in the next two or three months for the public to provide feedback on the bill to us,” said Taufiqulhadi, a legislator from the National Democratic Party.

The most recent feedback came from the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI). They met lawmakers earlier this month to convey their recommendations and urged the parliament and President Joko Widodo to soon enact regulations that could criminalize and contain deterrents to LGBT activities. They also recommended that homosexuality should be categorized as a mental illness.

“Adulterers, lesbians, gay men and other deviant sexual activities should be severely punished, as well as those who advocate, facilitate, provide funding or groups that take economic and political advantage from the deviant sexual behavior,” Sri Astuti Buchari, a deputy chairwoman at ICMI said during a discussion on Apr. 6.

She also called for greater cooperation to block pornography and LGBT channels on social media platforms and the internet.

Some of the most controversial articles in the bill, known by its acronym KUHP, are those regulating general morality. The articles included an expanded definition of adultery and gay sex between consenting adults, with heavier sentences for violations. The revisions, which will seek a five-year prison term for adultery and one year for couples accused of cohabitation, were made following request from the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) and a mounting push from religious conservative groups.

Under the current Criminal Code, consensual same-sex relations are not treated as crimes, except in Aceh where the province has a special autonomy to impose shariah law.

An article that previously only criminalized only paedophiles has been expanded to also criminalize all gay sex between consenting adults.

“We continue to push for the removal of the specific mention of sexual orientation in the proposed article. As long as the sex is non-consentual or with a minor, it should be enough to constitute a crime,” said Anggara, the executive director of Jakarta-based rights advocacy group Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR).

The morality articles have been criticized for meddling too much in citizens’ private lives and creating potential of new crimes at a time when law enforcement agencies are already overwhelmed and understaffed in the face of more pressing offenses such as drugs, human trafficking or terrorism. Correctional facilities are also bursting at the seams with overpopulation.

Arsul Sani, a legislator from the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP) and member of the working committee vetting the bill, defended the expanded definition of adultery to include gay sex and extramarital sex, saying it reflected the people’s philosophical, social and cultural values.

Sani said in February after the House plenary session that the proposed morality article would prevent ‘street justice’ or people taking matters into their own hands to harass those engaged in sexual activity they disapproved of, even if it is between consenting adults.

“It is necessary to expand the fornication article to not just criminalize adultery between members of the opposite sex but also between those of the same-sex,” he said.

“It was first proposed three years ago. Why make a fuss about it now when the bill is about to be passed into law?” he added.

Dede Oetomo, a Surabaya-based gay rights activist, acknowledged growing anxiety in the community over the rising hostility encountered in recent years, in contrast to the tolerance seen in the past.

Oetomo, an adviser to gay rights advocacy group GaYa Nusantara, said that the community had been optimistic that tolerance towards them would prevail, especially after President Joko Widodo was elected in 2014, as they believed he would push for greater democratization.

“We had big expectations because he is not from the old regime or a former military man but apparently we were wrong,” Oetomo said.

“Even before this talk about the proposed LGBT clause in the revised draft of the penal code, we have continued to encounter growing verbal and physical hostility since mid 2015,” he said, noting that the worrying trend coincided with the growing clout of religious conservatives in Indonesia.

Despite the unfavorable outlook, Oetomo said LGBT people continued about their regular daily lives and to hope they would not encounter harassment by police or intolerant groups.

In October, police officers raided a gay sauna in Central Jakarta and apprehended 51 men including seven foreigners, only to release most of them on the following day, while five employees were prosecuted for providing prostitution and pornography. It followed a raid in May in North Jakarta on a shophouse where gay men were gathering at a sauna. Police arrested 141 men but 126 were released the next day while 10 were prosecuted for violations of the 2008 anti-pornography law.

Surveys carried by Jakarta-based pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting paint a mix picture of public opinion in the world’s largest Muslim majority country, and one long seen as moderate and tolerant.

In a poll taken in March 2016, 47.5 percent of respondents who know or have heard about LGBT agreed that same-sex relations are forbidden by religion while 34 percent said they totally agreed with that view.

But in surveys taken in September and December last year, a large majority of the 1,220 respondents saw the LGBT community as a threat. In the December survey, 87.6 percent said they felt threatened by LGBT people, up from 85.4 percent in September.

More than half of the respondents, or 53.3 percent, said they could not accept if a member of their families was gay and 79.1 percent objected to having LGBT people as neighbors.

However, 57.7 percent of the respondents also acknowledged that LGBT people have the right to live in the country and 50 percent agreed the government should ensure that LGBT people’s rights are protected.

“The majority of citizens also object if a LGBT person becomes a government official, such as mayor, governor, or president,” said Ade Armando, the director of the polling firm.

“Even though the public views the LGBT people negatively and is being discriminative by refusing to support them to become public officials, the public does not discriminate when it comes to LGBT people living as regular citizens,” Armando added.

The article was first published in the Bangkok Post

 

Muslim-majority Kazakhstan, Indonesia scored differently on social hostilities involving religion

Despite being predominantly Muslim countries, Indonesia and Kazakhstan scored differently on religious hostilities by private individuals, organizations or groups in society, according the Pew Research Center’s latest annual study on global restrictions on religion.

The study, released on June 23, 2016, showed there was a decline in the share of countries with high or very high social hostilities involving religion, which dropped from 27% to 23%.

Pew’s Social Hostilities Index measures act of religious hostility, which includes religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons or other religion-related intimidation or abuse.

Out of the 198 countries included in the study, Kazakhstan were among countries scored low on social hostilities involving religion at 0.0 to 1.4 points while Indonesia were among those scored high at 3.6 to 7.1 points as of the end of 2014.

According to Kazakhstan statistics agency, the country’s population was 17,280 million by July 2013 and according to a 2009 census, roughly 70% people in the country acknowledged Islam as their religion, followed by 26% Christian, while about 205 million or 88% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim and both countries’ Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam.

The low scores on social hostilities involving religion in Kazakhstan and Indonesia corresponded to another study by Pew in 2012 that asked Muslims in both countries whether suicide bombings and other forms of civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. In Kazakhstan, 93% said such attacks are never justified and 81% in Indonesia responded the same.

But 46% in Indonesia and 28% in Kazakhstan said they were very concerned about extremists religious groups in the country, while 53% in Indonesia and 46% in Kazakhstan said they were mostly concerned about Muslim extremists group.

Both countries have also experienced deadly attacks by militants this year. In Indonesia, four civilians were killed in the bomb and gun attack by suspected Islamist militants in Central Jakarta on 14 January.

Six people were killed at a national guard base and firearms stores in Aktobe on 5 June and Kazakh government said the attack was carried out by “followers of radical, non-traditional religious movements”, using the term normally refers to Islamist militants in the country, according to a Reuters report.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’ said in a statement posted in Kazakhstan embassy to Indonesia’s Facebook page on 8 June in light of the attack that his government would “take the most stringent measures to suppress extremists and terrorists” and urged his people to be vigilant, stop all incitement to violent and illegal acts and help the law enforcement agencies.

“Extremism and terrorism have threatened the security of not only our country, but also of the whole world. The people of Kazakhstan fully understood the necessity of strengthening the anti-terrorism measures that were taken by the law enforcement agencies across the country following the attacks,” the president said.

The attack came just after the country hosted an international conference on religions against terrorism in its capital city Astana on 31 May, with representatives from religious groups and parliamentarians from around the world in attendance.

Indonesian politicians from United Development Party (PPP) who are members of House of Representatives and People’s Consultative Assembly, M. Arwani Thomafi and Mukhlisin were among the participants.

During the conference, Thomafi said the Indonesian delegation conveyed that Indonesia is no exception in facing terrorism, extremis and radicalism as global threats and its parliament is in the process of revising its counterterrorism law in a bid to make it more effective in preventing and combating terrorism.

“Indonesia called on the participants to promote and encourage a more moderate religious understanding and a more humanistic religious messages in order to create a peaceful world,” Thomafi told The Parrot.

The conference participants issued a joint statement and took into account about “the growing importance and role of inter-religious dialogue, international cooperation, political and inter-parliamentary diplomacy in ensuring the spiritual and legal foundations of global peace and security, strengthening the unity and effectiveness of universal human principles as well as common religious values and rights.”

They urged the international community to join efforts to counter terrorism and underline the need to continue the constructive dialogue among parliamentarians and religious leaders and to support President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “The World. The 21st Century” manifesto.

President Nazarbayev proposed this manifesto last year during his address at the United Nations General Assembly. It aims to establish a global anti-terrorist coalition under the auspices of the UN and to adopt a UN comprehensive document on countering terrorism, in accordance with the provisions of the Global Counter-Terrorist Strategy and the UN Security Council resolutions.

PPP lawmaker Thomafi welcomed the proposal, saying that it was also expressed in the participants’ statement that called on the international community to unite in combating terrorism.

The statement also said that the participants expressed their “shared determination to fight ceaselessly against those who create, finance and arm terrorist organizations for their own interests.”

In light of fight against terrorism funding and joint efforts to combat terrorism, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have signed memorandums of understanding to cooperate on counter terrorism and exchange of information on money laundering and terrorism funding during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s state visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013.

Listyowati, director of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Foreign Ministry said among the five Central Asian states in Former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has the strongest commitment for bilateral cooperation with Indonesia, which was marked by President Nazarbayev’s state visit to Indonesia in April 2012. President Yudhoyono reciprocated the visit in September 2013.

“It was the first visit of an Indonesian president to a post-Soviet state since President Suharto visited all five post-Soviet, Central Asian states in the 1990’s,” Listyowati told The Parrot.

Thomafi said the conference demonstrated that global political and religious leaders now had more concerted efforts in preventing facing terrorism, extremis and radicalism.

He also said he could conclude from the congress both Kazakhstan’s executive and legislative branches have a strong commitment in combating terrorism.

“It is evident in Kazakhstan being able to convince international figures of its efforts, not just being an initiator but also as a global pioneer, in combating terrorism,” Thomafi said.

Given its regional leadership and geopolitical situation that borders China and closely neighbors with Afghanistan, Listyowati said the country has a role to play in maintaining regional stability, which would impact on Indonesia.

“We also take into account the role of Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states to voice the interests of Muslims countries to the world,” Listyowati said.