Indonesia condemns British ambassador after LGBTQ+ flag is flown outside embassy

Government officials in Indonesia have summoned the country’s British ambassador after a simply display of LGBTQ+ solidarity. 

The British embassy paid tribute LGBTQ+ community on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on 17 May by displaying a rainbow flag at its Jakarta headquarters. The annually observed day aims to raise awareness about anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and violence.

The embassy posted an image of the LGBTQ+ flag on its Instagram, alongside a message of support for the community which received nearly 4,500 likes.

“Sometimes it is important to take a stand for what you think is right, even if disagreement between friends can be uncomfortable”, the post read, adding: “The UK will champion LGBT+ rights and support those who defend them.”

“We urge the international community to eradicate discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to promote diversity and tolerance,” it continued.

However, officials in Indonesia have now summoned the British ambassador, Owen Jenkins, to explain the move which has been branded “disrespectful” by the government.

“The foreign ministry reminds foreign representatives to be respectful of the sensitivities among Indonesians on matters relevant with their culture, religion and belief,” authorities said in a statement cited by the Independent

Prominent Islamic movement, Alumni 212 Brotherhood, also condemned the British embassy, saying that the display of the LGBTQ+ flag sullied the “sacred values of Indonesia” in accordance with the laws of Islam.

With exception to the province of Aceh, same-sex relationships are legal in Indonesia. However, 2020 saw the proposition of legislation that would force LGBTQ+ people into government-sanctioned “rehabilitation centres”, as widespread discrimination continues across the country.

Although the bill was never made law, conversion therapy, including exorcism, remains legal in the country. Advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Watch have continued to note discrimination against religious minorities, women and the LGBTQ+ community.