Indonesian city Padang using exorcisms to ‘cure’ queer people

A man in Indonesia is escorted by the Sharia police after get caning in public from an executor known as 'algojo' for having gay sex, which is against Sharia law

The Indonesian city of Padang has detained 18 queer couples as part of a campaign to ‘cure’ LGBT+ people through religious exorcisms.

Police have so far targeted 10 lesbian partners and eight transgender couples for “psychological support and rehabilitation” in the capital city of West Sumatra, according to BBC Indonesia.

This involves subjecting the couples to exorcisms—known as a ruqyah—which often include physical violence and are based on the belief that homosexual and trans people suffer from mental illnesses caused by demonic spirits known as “djinn.”

“A female spirit has entered the body”

— Indonesian cleric

It is believed that getting rid of these supernatural spirits by beating the victim with a broomstick and reading them holy verses will stop the person from being queer.

A TV show in the country called Ruqyah shows Islamic clerics performing exorcisms in order to ‘cure’ a variety of mental and physical ‘illnesses,’ including homosexuality and being trans.

In one episode, called “Djinn Interference in the Sodom Community,” a gay man is seen screaming, crying and shaking violently as he is read verses from the Quran, according to Australian outlet ABC.

The cleric justified the upsetting scenes by saying that he was cleansing the man’s body of a “female spirit” which had entered after a previous traumatic event.

Homosexuality is technically legal in Indonesia, apart from in Aceh—which is under Sharia law—but queer people still suffer.

Padang has repeatedly targeted the LGBT+ community

The crackdown on queer people in Padang, a city of more than a million people, was ordered by Mayor Mahyeldi Ansharullah, who last month led an anti-LGBT march of thousands through the streets of Padang.

The mayor told attendees: “To the perpetrators of sin, let them repent and those who protect them immediately be aware because they will face opposition from all parties and communities in Padang as well as security forces.”

Anti-LGBT+ march in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia

Mayor Mahyeldi Ansharullah led an anti-LGBT march of thousands through the streets of Padang in November (Dprd Kota Padang/Facebook)

And just weeks before the rally, police in Padang reportedly arrested 10 women on suspicion of “lesbian deviant behaviour.”

Head of police Pol Yadrison said that intelligence authorities had been monitoring the women’s activities on social media and that one of the women’s Facebook pages showed her “kissing and cuddling” with another woman, as if they were “men and women.”

Padang joins other Indonesian cities in cracking down on queer people

Pariaman city, which is located near Padang on Sumatra island, passed a law banning gay sex and other “acts that are considered LGBT” last month.

The city of more than 80,000 people will issue one million rupiah (£55) fines to same-sex couples convicted of committing “immoral acts” and to anyone found to be “acting as a transvestite.”

The city’s deputy mayor, Mardison Mahyudin, said that the law was part of a campaign to “eradicate LGBT.”

And last year in the capital city of Jakarta, 141 men were arrested for attending what authorities called a “gay sex party,” leading to 10 of the men being convicted and handed prison time.