Indonesia considers stepping back in time

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court is considering whether to make gay sex a crime after accepting a judicial review petition from Islamic activists called the Family Love Alliance. They want an existing law which criminalizes sex between adults and minors of the same gender, with prison sentences of up to 15 years, should be amended to also apply to sexual acts between adults of the same gender.

Rita Hendrawaty, of the group, said it was not trying to criminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “The real reason is so that we have much clearer norms,” she said. “We are not intending to criminalize those who have a deviant sexual orientation. That is not the point. They can be free to live but not show their lifestyle.”

Indonesia is known for tolerance and moderation but that has been tested this year by a campaign of denigration against LGBT people involving conservative politicians, mainstream Muslim groups, professional associations and media organizations.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but LGBT people can face stigma and discrimination. Criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults would be a major backward step for human rights in the country, which is the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

The anti-LGBT group told the Court that homosexuality was inherently immoral and went against Indonesia’s state ideology. Later this month, groups and individuals opposed to criminalizing gay sex will testify to the Court.