Indonesia LGBTQ event moved after security threats

A partcipant takes part in the "Pink Parade", a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebration in Nice, southeastern France, on July 9, 2023AFP

A Southeast Asian LGBTQ event set to be held in Indonesia next week has been cancelled and relocated after a series of security threats, organisers said in a statement.

Homosexuality is legal everywhere in Indonesia except in conservative Aceh province, which adheres to strict Islamic laws, but gay couples often face discrimination in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

ASEAN Queer Advocacy Week was set to be held in the capital Jakarta from 17 to 21 July, bringing together LGBTQ activists from around the region to connect and discuss challenges to the community.

“The organisers of the ASEAN Queer Advocacy Week decided to relocate the venue of the program outside Indonesia, after receiving a series of security threats from various groups,” Philippines-based organiser ASEAN SOGIE Caucus said in a statement late Tuesday.

“The decision was made to ensure the safety and security of both the participants and the organiser.”

ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, which organised the event with Indonesian group Arus Pelangi and Thailand’s Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, said it had been monitoring a “wave of ‘anti-LGBT’ sentiment on social media”.

They did not say when or where the relocated event would take place for security reasons.

The Southeast Asian country’s most powerful Islamic regulatory body, the Indonesian Ulema Council, called on the government to prevent the meeting from being held in Indonesia.

“The government should not give a permit to any event in this country that contradicts religious values,” the council’s deputy chairman Anwar Abbas said in a statement.

He said none of the six officially recognised religions in Indonesia “tolerates LGBT practices”.

Other LGBTQ events have been cancelled in Indonesia after resistance from Islamic groups in recent years, including a visit by US special LGBTQ envoy Jessica Stern in December.

Outside Aceh, Indonesia’s current laws on homosexuality are, however, more liberal than some of its neighbours.

In Singapore, sex between men remains illegal, a holdover from colonial rule that is not strictly enforced.

Sodomy is a criminal offence in Malaysia and can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment, and fines.