Indonesia arrests 58 in raid on gay sauna
Indonesia has arrested 58 people including foreigners in a raid on a gay sauna.
The raid comes as part of a wider crackdown on LGBT+ people in the country.
Police raided the building which contains a sauna and a gym in Jakarta on Friday.
They acted after members of the public reportedly complained that the building was being used for sex work.
A spokesman for the police, Argo Yuwono said in a statement: “We secured 51 and seven employees for allegedly providing pornographic services.”
Six foreigners were among those arrested, which included one man from Holland, four from China and one from Thailand.
The police spokesman said that six of those arrested would be charged under an anti-pornography law.
They face up to six years in prison but it is unclear whether the other 52 arrested will face charges.
Last month the Indonesian Attorney General rescinded a job notice which banned LGBT people.
The widely condemned job notice had also said that gay men have a “mental illness”.
Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo’s office withdrew the notice.
It had been condemned by the country’s National Human Rights Commission. The organisation’s commissioner Muhammad Nurkhoiron had said: “Such a policy should not be used by any state institutions, including the Attorney General’s Office.”
This was a change of direction for Indonesia, where LGBT people have feared a crackdown for some time.
There are fears of a crackdown against LGBT people in Indonesia after twelve women were evicted from a shared home in West Java earlier this month.
The women had been renting a house in Tugu Jaya together.
But authorities acted on complaints from neighbours, saying that their living arrangement was “unfeminine” and “against the teaching of Islam.”
Religious leaders and an Islamic youth group had complained to police, resulting in a raid last Saturday.
They were given three days to leave the premises .
The Human Rights Watch reports that no legal justification was given for the raid and the forced eviction.
“What’s most offensive about this incident is that police and government officials steamrollered privacy rights and rule of law to appease the bigotry of a few neighbours,” Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
“Evicting these women based on prejudiced assumptions of their sexual identity,” he continued, “threatens the privacy of all Indonesians and has no place in a country whose motto is ‘unity in diversity.”
An anonymous village official had told Human Rights Watch: “It’s not acceptable to have female couples living together. Some have short hair, acting as the males. Some have long hair, acting as the females. It’s against sharia [Islamic law]. It’s obscene.”
“Personally, I am worried,” said Yulita Rustinawati, from the LGBT advocacy group Arus Pelangi, saying they are worried about a further crackdown on LGBT people.
“It’s like we are criminals. Everything that we do now becomes risky, even living with our partners.”
Indonesia earlier this year moved the flogging of LGBT people away from the public eye, but continues to punish LGBT people.
Several public floggings have taken place this year, and two men were given 83 lashes each for being together. The punishment came a day after 141 men were arrested in Jakarta, the capital, for having a “gay sex party”.
Now the Human Rights Watch has said that the floggings continue, but that authorities in the Aceh Province have moved them away from being public.
Media reports suggest that Acehnese leaders are worried that videos of May’s flogging, which were widely circulated online, make the province unappealing for investors.
Anti-LGBT discrimination is said to be costing Indonesia as much as $12 billion every year, according to a recent study.
The losses are a result of barriers to employment, education, healthcare, as well as “physical, psychological, sexual, economic and cultural violence” suffered by LGBT citizens.
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France has been urged by human rights groups to put pressure on Indonesia to do more to protect the rights of LGBT+ people.
A Muslim leader in Indonesia earlier this year called for a boycott of Starbucks over the company’s CEO’s acceptance of LGBT rights.
Malaysian leaders later joined in calls for the boycott.
Earlier this year, Malaysia’s health ministry defended its intention to hold a competition on the best ideas for “preventing” homosexuality and transgender identities.
The most populous province in Indonesia also this year launched a special police team to crack down on those suspected of being LGBT.