The list of government officials or politicians making incendiary statements against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which is clearly defenceless in a nation that tends to simplify homosexuality as a sin, is already lamentably long.
In case you had forgotten, in January 2016, Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir caused quite a stir with his remarks that members of the LGBT community should be barred from university campuses. Before the controversy died away, then administrative reform minister Yuddy Chrisnandi doubled down, saying that LGBT people should be banished from the civil service.
And then there was the lawmaker from the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) Nasir Djamil, who has said that the LGBT community poses a serious threat to the nation.
Gay-bashing campaigns have also reached into some of the country’s highest offices. Vice President Jusuf Kalla continued the onslaught against the LGBT community by calling on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) not to finance LGBT community programs in Indonesia.
This should not surprise us, as what these politicians have said about the gay community reflects the general sentiment in a society that continues to hold negative views of the LGBT community.
Last Thursday, Sjaiful Mujani Research and Consulting published results from its survey that, among other things, found that a whopping 87 per cent of the population considered the LGBT community to be a deviant group.
Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Zulkifli Hasan, however, took the LGBT-bashing campaign to a new high, or low, depending on your position on the issue. The National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman, Zulkifli may not have been not the first politician to make gay-baiting statements, but he could be the first to cynically exploit the issue to score political points and eventually legislative victory.
With a statement claiming that five political factions at the House of Representatives had plans to decriminalise gay sex, Zulkifli pre-empted any discussion of the concept of being less prejudiced toward the LGBT community. Without giving details as to which political factions in the deliberation to amend the Criminal Code showed leniency toward the gay community, Zulkifli effectively backed them into a corner, as no faction wishes to be seen by the electorate as being weak on gay issues.
The strategy paid off handsomely, with all factions now reiterating their opposition to any efforts to legitimise the gay community.
With strategic regional elections this year, and legislative and presidential elections next year, expect this gay-bashing campaign to intensify.
We appear to be witnessing the emergence of “Trumpism”, where spinning hate is becoming the new norm in Indonesian politics. What a sorry state of affairs.