Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern about the Indonesian president’s running mate, who has a history of clamping down on LGBTI people.
Last week President Joko Widodo selected Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate for the 2019 presidential election.
Amin is an influential figure in Islamic community.
In the past he has said that ‘LGBTI people should be criminalized because of their “deviant behavior“,’ and has issued numerous fatwas against LGBTI activities.
‘[Amin has] played a pivotal role in fuelling worsening discrimination against the country’s religious and gender minorities,’ the HRW said in a statement.
HRW said that Widodo’s choice of a running mate raises serious questions about the president’s commitment to human rights.
Clampdowns on LGBTI activities in Indonesia
Amin, a senior Islamic leader, has been the chairman of Indonesia’s Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, or MUI) since 2007.
In recent years, the MUI have launched various clampdowns on LGBTI activities in Indonesia, often calling for fatwas (religious edicts) against LGBTI groups.
In 2015, the MUI issued a fatwa calling for ‘same-sex acts to be subject to punishments ranging from caning to the death penalty.’ The fatwa also equated homosexuality with a ‘curable disease,’ and stated that same-sex sexual activities ‘must be heavily punished’.
The group issued another fatwa in 2016, calling for the criminalization of LGBT activities. Amin said the fatwa was justified on the basis that ‘homosexuality, whether lesbian or gay, and sodomy is legally haram and a form of crime.’
‘That fatwa has helped fuel dangerous levels of anti-LGBT discrimination and led to arbitrary and unlawful raids by police and militant Islamists on private LGBT gatherings. These abuses have effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to populations vulnerable to HIV infection,’ HRW said in their report.
Widodo’s decision to pick Amin as his running mate can be read as a reaction to criticism levelled by his opponents.
Widodo has been accused of being too liberal, of not being ‘not pious enough’ and has been called a secret Christian by his opponents. The president’s hope is that, through siding with the more hardline Amin, he can counter these criticisms.
‘Whipping up an anti-LGBTI fury’
Indonesia’s LGBTI rights record has been in a sharp decline over the last two years.
The Islamic nation has seen politicians and government officials ‘whipping up the public into an anti-LGBTI fury‘, such as one minister saying ‘the LGBT movement was more dangerous than a nuclear bomb’, which has deeply affected the public’s perception of LGBTI people and communities.
There has been an increase in clampdowns on LGBTI activities. Last month an alleged gay couple were publicly flogged in the conservative province of Aceh. The men were flogged 80 times in front of a cheering crowd.
The authorities have carried out numerous high-profile raids on LGBTI clubs. Police have also started claiming that carrying a condom is evidence of homosexuality, which has risked the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among Indonesia’s LGBTI communities.