Amnesty International attacks ‘absurd’ charges against 141 Indonesians arrested in gay sauna

TAKENGON, INDONESIA: An Acehnese executor flogs a convicted woman in Takengon, in Indonesian central Aceh province, 19 August 2005 after an Islamic sharia court ordered four women to be flogged for petty gambling offences. The public lashing was the second since the Indonesian government allowed the western province to implement religious law as part of broader autonomy granted in 2001 to curb a separatist Islamist insurgency. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Amnesty International has called for charges to be dropped against 141 men who were arrested in a gay sauna on Sunday.

141 men were arrested in a sauna on Sunday 21 May in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Despite homosexuality not being illegal federally, if private, consenting and non-commercial, the most recent arrests are under Islamic law in the Aceh region of the country.

Indonesian man awaits sentencing

Authorities have been targeting LGBT people for arrest under the broadly-written anti-pornography legislation.

It marks the latest in a string of mass arrests in Indonesia, where the LGBT community appears to be coming under increasing pressure and persecution from the authorities.

An Amnesty International has now issued a statement saying the country is “homophobic” in its handling of this issue and that the charges should be dropped.

Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Campaigns, said: “These arrests are further evidence of the increasingly hostile environment faced by the LGBTI community in Indonesia.

“This situation has been fuelled over the past year by a series of reckless, inflammatory and inaccurate statements made by public officials, apparently under the guise of ‘defending public morality’.

“With the exception of Aceh province, there is no law against same-sex relationships in Indonesia. Ambiguously worded laws on pornography are being exploited to deliberately target LGBTI people, denying them the basic right to privacy and the right to enter into consensual relationships.

“As well as dropping the absurd charges against the individuals involved in this incident, the Indonesian government must revise its pornography laws so that they cannot be misused in this way.

“Rather than peddling blatantly homophobic rhetoric, the authorities should focus their efforts on creating a safer, inclusive environment for the LGBTI community in the long term.”

Earlier this month, two men also in Aceh who were arrested for having gay sex became the latest in the province to be sentenced for the “crime”.

The judge increased the number of lashes from the 80 requested by the prosecutor to 85.

In sentencing, he said that having been “proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing gay sex, the defendants are sentenced to 85 strokes of the cane in public”.

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.

France has been urged by human rights groups to put pressure on Indonesia to do more to protect the rights of LGBT+ people.