Indonesian anti-LGBT crackdown has led to five-fold increase in HIV, report shows

Indonesian police parade a group of men arrested for holding a "gay party" in Surabaya

The ongoing crackdown on Indonesian LGBT people has led to a 500 percent increase in the number of people with HIV in the country.

Since the beginning of 2016, authorities have arrested hundreds of people for being LGBT, with two men caned 83 times last year in Aceh as a legal punishment for having gay sex.

Aceh is the only part of the Muslim-majority country where gay sex is already illegal, as the region has Sharia law, having won this concession from the government as part of a 2005 autonomy deal.

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - MAY 23: Indonesian gay couple walk as arrive for caning in public from an executor known as 'algojo' for having gay sex, which is against Sharia law at Syuhada mosque on May 23, 2017 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The two young gay men, aged 20 and 23, were caned 85 times each in the Indonesian province of Aceh during a public ceremony after being caught having sex last week. It was the first time gay men have been caned under Sharia law as gay sex is not illegal in most of Indonesia except for Aceh, which is the only province which exercises Islamic law. The punishment came a day after the police arrested 141 men at a sauna in the capital Jakarta on Monday due to suspicion of having a gay sex party, the latest crackdown on homosexuality in the country. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

Gay men in Indonesia being led to be lashed 83 times (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty)

But according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, Indonesia’s “systematic crackdown on LGBT rights” has been so severe, it has led to a health crisis.

The organisation has outlined how “widespread stigma and discrimination against populations at risk of HIV, as well as people living with HIV, has discouraged some HIV-vulnerable populations from accessing prevention and treatment services.

“As a result, HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) have increased five-fold since 2007 from 5 percent to 25 percent.”

A group of Muslim protesters march with banners against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Banda Aceh on Decmber 27, 2017. There has been a growing backlash against Indonesia's small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community over the past year, with ministers, hardliners and influential Islamic groups lining up to make anti-LGBT statements in public. / AFP PHOTO / Chaideer MAHYUDDIN (Photo credit should read CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian protesters (Getty)

HRW added that “the anti-LGBT moral panic and unlawful police raids have made public health outreach to the most at-risk populations far more difficult,” which, it says, makes “wider spread of the virus more likely.”

Kyle Knight, who wrote the report, explained: “The Indonesian government’s failure to address anti-LGBT moral panic is having dire consequences for public health.

“The Indonesian government should recognise that its role in abuses against LGBT people is seriously compromising the country’s response to HIV.”

Indonesian Muslim protestors of Muslim organization 'Hizbuth Tahrir' hold a banner reading, 'Forbidden, Crime and Disgusting' refering to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual associations during a protest against an eventual meeting on the issue in Surabaya on March 26, 2010. Indonesian police said on March 24, they will not issue a permit for an international gay and transgender group to convene a regional conference because of fears it could incite unrest. The international lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex association (ILGA) was scheduled to meet from 26 - 28 March in the world's most populous Muslim country. AFP PHOTO / MUHAMMAD RISYAL HIDAYAT (Photo credit should read MUHAMMAD RISYAL HIDAYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian protesters hold a banner reading: “Forbidden, Crime and Disgusting,” which refers to same-sex relationships (Getty)

Nigrat L, a 47-year-old transgender woman who acts as an outreach worker in the capital of Jakarta, told HRW: “Violence will always be there – it always has been with us.

“It’s just part of our lives. It’s normal. We just know it as our bad luck that day, and maybe tomorrow too, or maybe tomorrow will be better.”

In January, Indonesian police arrested 12 transgender women in Aceh and shaved their heads in an effort “to turn them into men”.

12 Indonesian trans women were arrested and humiliated (LOE TUBE/YouTube)

The raid on salons was called “operasi penyakit masyarakat,” which translates as “community sickness operation”.

A new criminal code is currently making its way through the country’s Parliament, which, if passed, would ban gay sex.

The ban – which could make gay sex punishable by up to five years in prison – was set to come into effect in February, but was delayed.

Indonesian police guard men arrested in a recent raid during a press conference at a police station in Jakarta on May 22, 2017.  Indonesian police have detained 141 men who were allegedly holding a gay party at a sauna, an official said on May 22, the latest sign of a backlash against homosexuals in the Muslim-majority country. / AFP PHOTO / FERNANDO        (Photo credit should read FERNANDO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian police with some of the 141 men detained for holding a ‘gay sex party’ last year (FERNANDO/AFP/Getty)

Amnesty International has repeatedly urged Indonesia to stop its horrific treatment of LGBT people in Aceh, but queer Indonesians suffer all over the country.

The caning punishment came the day after 141 men were arrested in Jakarta for having a “gay sex party”.

These arrests came at the Atlantis Gym, a public health outreach centre where men who have sex with men could come for HIV education, testing and counselling.

Earlier that same month, eight men were arrested for holding a “gay party” in Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia.