LGBTI communities in Indonesia are facing increasing crackdowns both from the police and the municipal police (Satpol PP) with at least four series of arrests and public humiliations having taken place across the country in the past month, Amnesty International says.
The latest crackdown took place on November 4 when Satpol PP in Padang, West Sumatra, arrested ten people assumed to be lesbian women after one of them posted a photo of her kissing and hugging her girlfriend on Facebook. The Satpol PP moved to make the arrest after people in Padang complained about the picture. They said that the ten people would be sent to a local social affairs agency to undergo an “education program” without elaborating further.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring province of Lampung, local Satpol PP also raided a beach and arrested three people whom they suspected of being transgender women in an operation said to “provide safety and maintain public order” in the city. Following the raid, the Satpol PP hosed these people down in public using a fire truck as part of what it called a ‘mandatory bath’, or ghusl.
“The humiliation of these three transgender women is appalling and constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited under international law. Raiding people and using a fire truck to hose them down in public are totally unacceptable, as is any other act of violence and discrimination against transgender women or other LGBTI people,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said.
On October 31, the Head of Satpol PP in West Pasaman in West Sumatra said that the Municipal Police also arrested two women for being in a lesbian relationship. In October, the Satpol PP also arrested six people whom it suspected of being transgender women. The agency said that the strings of arrests were made “to ensure that the city is clean from LGBT.” The head of Satpol PP said “there was no place for LGBT people in the city”, adding that such arrests were justified under the public order bylaw in West Pasaman that “regulates light sanctions for LGBT people.”
“This vicious campaign against LGBTI people in Lampung, Padang, West Pasaman and in Indonesia as a whole must immediately stop. The police must protect the citizens of this country. They must also investigate the Satpol PP officers and bring perpetrators to justice, otherwise they enable an increasingly worrying climate of impunity. The Satpol PP must be instructed never to perform such acts again. All bylaws including the one in West Sumatra that discriminates against LGBTI people must be repealed,” Usman Hamid added.
On October 19, the West Java Police arrested two men for administering a Facebook group called “Facebook Gay Bandung Indonesia” or GBI, which has a total of 4,093 members. They were later charged under the draconian Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law “for distributing electronic information which contain violation decency”.
“This situation is alarming as the hateful abuses by law enforcement bodies against LGBTI people are seen as a normal practice by many people in Indonesia,” Usman Hamid explained.
“Some people even encourage the police and Satpol PP to carry out the arrests. The central government must take action to stop the crackdowns and order local administration to repeal all discriminatory regulations. Police officers should be instructed to protect LGBTI people who were persecuted for their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, which are innate parts of a person’s identity and should not be criminalized,” he added.
Earlier this year, on 27 January, police in North Aceh arrested 12 transgender people and closed down five beauty salons where they work. As part of the raid, the police also cut their hair and forced them to wear men’s clothes.