Last month, Indonesia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was buoyed by a decision to remove the phrase “same-sex” from the article on fornication in the proposed Criminal Code (KUHP) bill, amid a raft of contentious legal changes that have sparked much debate. The decision showed there’s still a shred of decency in the country. The resolution was arrived at after several prominent civil organisations criticised the phrase, and followed six months of tension in the parliament, with human rights defenders arrayed against the government and Islamic parties. Eventually, the government conceded that including the phrase would discriminate against the LGBT community. Yet it remains far from clear whether this backdown marks a win for the LGBT community in Indonesia, or just a distraction. Over the past two years, the LGBT issue has been used as a political weapon in efforts to seize voters’ support in local elections. Ahead of the upcoming national election in 2019, there is every risk the issue will be used in this way again.
June 8 / The News Lens