INDONESIA: Amnesty condemns TNI for anti-LBGT campaign following soldier’s dismissal, imprisonment

By Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

 

The Jakarta Post (18.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3e0szJj – Amnesty International Indonesia has condemned the Indonesian Military (TNI) for the recent imprisonment and dismissal of a soldier for having same-sex intercourse with another officer, calling the sentence unjust and dangerous to the community.

 

“This unjust sentence should be immediately overturned and the individual immediately released. No one should be persecuted based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director Usman Hamid said in a press statement on Saturday urging the military to end its campaign against the community.

 

He argued that the ruling would set a dangerous precedent for other service members thought to have engaged in consensual same-sex activities.

 

“It further enshrines discrimination and risks inciting violence against perceived LGBT people inside the military and in wider society,” Usman said.

 

The Semarang Military Court declared a chief private, identified only as P, guilty of violating Article 103 of the Military Criminal Code on disobedience to service orders, after being found having sex with a subordinate in the Armed Forces. The court sentenced him to one-year imprisonment and dishonorably dismissed him from the military.

 

Amnesty, he said, urged the government to send a clear message to the public that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would not be tolerated, including in the military. He highlighted that state institutions should lead by example and not undermine commitments to human rights’ protections.

 

“Indonesia has to repeal this archaic and discriminatory provision in the criminal code and other regulations. The government must reform when it comes to the rights of LGBT people,” he added.

 

According to Amnesty records, this was not the first case of a soldier being prosecuted because of their perceived sexual orientation. A military officer in Denpasar, Bali, was convicted in March under the same article for having same-sex consensual relations with three men. The officer filed for an appeal but the Surabaya Military High Court backed the martial court in Denpasar.

 

Usman further said that criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct violated rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

 

The TNI, however, has defended the sentence against P, arguing that homosexuality in the force would be met with firm punishment.

 

Lini Zurlia, an advocacy officer of the cross-border organization for LGBT rights ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, also criticized the punishment. She argued that the officer’s sexuality was a private matter, adding that the ruling could have further impacts on members of the Indonesian LGBT community.

 

The National Police also announced that the force would hand down ethics punishments to personnel found to engage in LGBT activity following the reports of alleged LGBT members in the military, spokesman Brig. Gen Awi Setiyono said.

 

“The police will take firm action, a code of conduct sanctions awaits,” Awi said, referring to regulations such articles in the 2014 National Police code of ethics that stipulate that all personnel should follow moral, religious and legal norms as well as local wisdom.

 

While homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, there has been growing anti-LGBT rhetoric in the past years with members of the community facing discrimination and hate crimes.

Photo: Love wins: A passerby hugs an activist campaigning for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community during Car Free Day in Jakarta on June 16, 2019. (JP/Seto Wardhana).




Algeria: Mass convictions for homosexuality

Arbitrary arrests; police raid alleged ‘gay wedding’.

 

HRW (15.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3dMEFpl – An Algerian court on September 3, 2020 sentenced 2 men to prison terms and 42 others to suspended terms after mass arrests at what the police alleged was a “gay wedding,” Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should void the charges and release them immediately.

 

On July 24, 2020, police raided a private residence and arrested the 44 – 9 women and 35 men, most of them university students – in el-Kharoub, a district in Constantine Province, northeastern Algeria, after neighbors complained. An Algerian lawyer involved in the case told Human Rights Watch that the court used police reports describing the decorations, flowers, and sweets indicative of a wedding celebration, and the men’s supposedly gay appearance, as evidence of guilt.

 

“Algerian authorities’ attack on personal freedoms is nothing new, but arresting dozens of students based on their perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant infringement on their basic rights,” said Rasha Younes, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They should immediately release from prison the two men who would be free today were it not for Algeria’s regressive anti-homosexuality laws.”

 

The court convicted the 44 of “same-sex relations,” “public indecency,” and “subjecting others to harm by breaking Covid-19-related quarantine measures.” Two men were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, and the others to a one-year suspended sentence.

 

These convictions contradict the right to privacy under international human rights law. This right is also reflected in Algeria’s constitution, which provides for the protection of a person’s “honor” and private life, including the privacy of their home, communication, and correspondence. The convictions of the 44 for “same-sex relations” indicate that Algerian authorities are discriminating against them based on their perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, Human Rights Watch said. The appeal of their convictions has not yet been scheduled.

 

In Algeria, same-sex relations are punishable under article 338 of the penal code by up to two years in prison. Additionally, article 333 increases the penalty for public indecency to six months to three years in prison and a fine if it involves “acts against nature with a member of the same sex,” whether between men or women.

 

Arrests for “moral” offenses that involve consensual adult activities in private settings violate international human rights law, including the right to privacy, nondiscrimination, and bodily autonomy protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Algeria is a state party. Algeria has ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), which affirms the rights to nondiscrimination, and has joined the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, Algerian law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Additionally, Algeria has a law that prohibits the registration of organizations in Algeria whose aims are deemed inconsistent with “public morals,” and that imposes criminal penalties for members of unregistered organizations. This law poses risks to those who want to form or become active in LGBT groups, as well as to human rights organizations that otherwise might support such activities. According to a 2019 analysis by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA), laws regulating nongovernmental organizations in Algeria make it virtually impossible for organizations working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity to legally register.

 

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the risk of outbreaks in detention sites, Human Rights Watch recommended that governments refrain from custodial arrests for minor offenses that do not involve the infliction or threat of infliction of serious bodily injury or sexual assault or a known likelihood of physical harm. Officials should also release anyone held pretrial, unless they pose a specific and known risk of harm to others that cannot be managed through measures other than detention.

 

Since March, Algerian authorities have imposed a ban on all social gatherings to slow the spread of Covid-19. Breaking quarantine and social distancing measures to attend a social gathering does not justify arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, Human Rights Watch said.

 

“While people in Algeria continue to demand their basic rights to protest, the authorities are dedicating their time and resources to crack down on students and stockpile discriminatory charges against them,” Younes said. “Instead of policing its citizens’ private lives, the Algerian government should carry out reforms, including decriminalizing same-sex conduct.”

Photo: An Algerian demonstrator holds the Algerian national flag as he stage a protest against the government in Algiers, Algeria, Friday, Nov.29, 2019. © 2019 AP Photo/Toufik Doudou




Indonesia: Investigate police raid on ‘gay party’

Authorities exploiting pornography law to target LGBT people.

 

HRW (07.09.2020) – https://bit.ly/3ih5WBR – The Indonesian government should urgently investigate a police raid on a private gathering of 56 men in Jakarta that highlights the threat to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. On August 29, 2020, police forcibly broke up a party at a hotel, arresting nine men and charging them with the crime of “facilitating obscene acts” and under the pornography law, which discriminates against LGBT people.

 

The charges violate the rights to privacy, association, and equal protection of the law and should immediately be dropped.

 

“This latest raid fits into a disturbing pattern of Indonesian authorities using the pornography law as a weapon to target LGBT people,” said Kyle Knight, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government has been inciting hostility toward LGBT people for several years, and there is no accountability for abuses such as police raids on private spaces.”

 

Article 296 of Indonesia’s criminal code makes it a crime for someone to make “an occupation or a habit of intentionally causing or facilitating any obscene act by others.” The maximum penalty is 16 months in prison.

 

The Jakarta raid is part of a years-long pattern of authorities unlawfully apprehending LGBT people in private spaces. Indonesia’s central government has never criminalized same-sex behavior, but no national laws specifically protect LGBT people against discrimination. An uptick in anti-LGBT rhetoric and attacks since 2016 has resulted in the application of discriminatory clauses in the pornography law to target LGBT people for arrest and prosecution.

 

Indonesia’s 2008 Law on Pornography prohibits the “creation, dissemination or broadcasting of pornography containing deviant sexual intercourse,” which it defines to include: sex with corpses, sex with animals, oral sex, anal sex, lesbian sex, and male homosexual sex. Article 36 of the Pornography Law, which criminalizes facilitating obscene acts for a commercial purpose, has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

 

A group of activists, including LGBT organizations, attempted to challenge the law in the Constitutional Court in 2009, but the court declined to review it.

 

While historically the law was not used to target LGBT people specifically, in recent years police have used it as a pretext for arbitrary raids and arrests, and courts have found gay men in private gatherings guilty under the law.

 

In September 2017, a court in Surabaya found seven men who had been arrested during a police raid on a gay party in April of that year guilty under the pornography law and sentenced them to between 18 months and 30 months in prison.

 

In October 2017, Jakarta police raided a club popular with gay men, arresting 58 people. Police released most of them the same day but detained five employees of the club – four men and a woman – and threatened to charge them with violating the pornography law. They were subsequently released without charge.

 

On December 15, 2017, the North Jakarta District Court sentenced 10 men to between two and three years in prison for violating the pornography law. Police had apprehended the 10, along with 131 others, during a raid on the Atlantis Gym, a sauna frequented by gay men in Jakarta, in May 2017. The 10 were convicted based on allegations that they were naked at the time of the raid, citing the law’s prohibition on performances that involve stripping.

 

In January 2018, police in Cianjur, West Java province, raided a private home where five men had gathered. Citing the pornography law, the police told reporters the men were caught at a “sex party,” using condoms and lubricant as evidence.

 

In a development similar to the application of the pornography law, in January 2020, the mayor of Depok, a city in West Java, ordered police to raid private residences to look for “immoral acts” and “prevent the spread of LGBT.” The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) condemned the order, saying such rhetoric from public officials increases the risk of persecution of LGBT people.

 

According to the police report of the recent Jakarta raid, a 31-officer police unit, under Adjunct Police Commissionaire Jerry Raimond Siagian, had apparently been monitoring the private gathering and organized the raid.

 

Privacy rights are a fundamental protection that underlie everyone’s physical autonomy and identity and include protections for private adult consensual sexual behavior, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent body of experts that interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is party, has stated, “It is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of ‘privacy.’”

 

Indonesia has been a champion for privacy rights internationally, co-sponsoring a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the right to privacy. In the report on that resolution, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reminded governments that privacy rights (enshrined in ICCPR article 17) should be upheld jointly with the right to nondiscrimination (ICCPR, article 26).

 

Indonesian police should halt arbitrary raids on private spaces, investigate those that have taken place, and punish those who took part in the raids and those responsible in their chain of command, Human Rights Watch said. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who has voiced support for LGBT Indonesians in the past, should make clear the prohibition against discriminatory behavior by the police.

 

The Indonesian parliament should also substantially revise the proposed new criminal code to meet international human rights standards. It contains articles that will violate the rights of LGBT people. It has provisions that will punish extramarital sex by up to one year in jail. While this article does not specifically mention same-sex conduct, since same-sex relationships are not legally recognized in Indonesia, this provision effectively criminalizes all same-sex conduct.

 

“The combination of exploiting the discriminatory pornography law and a lack of accountability for police misconduct has proved to be both dangerous and durable,” Knight said. “So long as the government permits police raids on private gatherings under a discriminatory law, it will fail to curb anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation.”




Dozens of gay men are outed in Morocco as photos are spread online

The idea was to show the hypocrisy of Moroccan society by showing how many gay men are living quietly in straight society. It backfired badly.

 

By Aida Alami

 

The New York Times (26.04.2020) – https://nyti.ms/3aLsKVr – At least 50 to 100 gay men were outed in Morocco over the last two weeks, rights activists say, after the men were identified on location-based meeting apps while sheltering at home amid a coronavirus lockdown.

 

In at least three cases, men were kicked out of their houses, L.G.B.T.Q. activists said. In interviews, many others in the country said they had been blackmailed and threatened, and thousands fear that their photos will be spread on social media.

 

“Here I am just waiting for my death sentence,” said a young man whose photos were leaked online and who spoke anonymously for fear of being attacked. “I’m frustrated and scared.”

 

In Morocco, a North African kingdom where homosexuality and sex outside marriage are crimes, gay people are painfully accustomed to the feelings of peril and rejection, and many keep their sexual identities under wraps.

 

Now, their cover has been blown in a way that would be criminal in most Western societies, rights advocates say. Yet they have no legal recourse.

 

“Forcibly outing people is not just an obvious violation of their right to privacy,” said Ahmed Benchemsi, the communications director for the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “When wrapped in incitement to hate and calls to violence based on sexual orientation, it’s also a crime.”

 

“A legal system respectful of universal rights would empower victims to press charges,” he said. “But in Morocco, same-sex behavior is also criminalized, so victims could find themselves trapped in a tragic catch-22 situation.”

 

What makes this episode particularly painful, gay leaders say, is that it was ignited by someone who had also been singled out.

 

On April 13, a Moroccan transgender Instagram personality based in Istanbul, Naoufal Moussa or Sofia Talouni, was insulted about her sexual orientation. In a rage, she released a profanity-laced video encouraging women to download the location-based meeting apps, like Grindr and Planet Romeo, which are usually used by gay men.

 

In subsequent videos, she said her aim was to reveal the hypocrisy of Moroccan society by showing her attackers how many gay men were living in their vicinity, perhaps even in their own homes.

 

Many people followed Ms. Moussa’s lead and created fake accounts on the apps to gather photos of gay men, which they then posted on private and public Facebook pages, setting off the homophobic attacks.

 

The attacks ignited a firestorm of criticism, both of Ms. Moussa and of Morocco’s discriminatory laws.

 

Adam Eli, the founder of the New York-based activist group Voices4, worked in coordination with Moroccan L.G.B.T.Q. rights activists to get Ms. Moussa’s Instagram account deleted.

 

“For now the account has been suspended, and already a new one has popped up,” he said. “We did not solve the issue of queer-phobia in Morocco. However, we showed a bunch of young queer people, who are scared and in quarantine, that they are not alone, that they have the force of the international queer community behind them.”

 

A spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, confirmed that Ms. Moussa’s account had been suspended. “We don’t allow people to out members of the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community because it puts them at risk,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “We’ve disabled Naoufal Moussa’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, and we’re taking proactive steps to find and remove other content like this.”

 

What seems to have set Ms. Moussa off was a late-night conversation with a little-known Instagram user, who in an interview asked to be identified only as Yassine, for fear for his safety.

 

Ms. Moussa has attained a measure of fame in recent months, using her platform to talk crudely about sex and to entertain her followers in an insolent and confrontational manner in vulgar Moroccan Arabic. That has made her an object of fascination and horror to her more than half-million followers.

 

And she is known to despise L.G.B.T.Q. people who do not make their sexual orientation known.

 

Yassine, a 22-year-old, said he was initially delighted to be picked to go live on Instagram with Ms. Moussa. But what felt like an honor rapidly turned into embarrassment and shock as Ms. Moussa compelled him to acknowledge that he was gay, threatening to post revealing photos showing him with another gay man. It is unclear how she obtained the photos.

 

“I was shocked and then very scared,” Yassine said. “She destroyed my life.”

 

He has since been forced to move out of the house of a family member and to use his savings to rent a small apartment in Tangier.

 

“Everybody is sending the video and saying bad things about me,” he said. “My mom, also, she’s very sad. She’s not talking to me anymore. My friends at the gym, friends I went to school with — they all blocked me.”

 

Many who saw the outing of Yassine were outraged and attacked Ms. Moussa, flagging her account to Instagram. That’s when she got angry and suggested downloading gay meeting apps, which led to the outburst of anti-gay violence.

 

“My dating life in Morocco was somehow OK as long as my partner and I were being super discreet and cautious,” said one gay man who asked to be identified only by his initials, N.A., and says his family hasn’t seen the photos. He has been staying with his grandmother and waiting in fear for something bad to happen.

 

Abdellah Taia, a prominent gay author and one of few to publicly declare his sexual orientation in Morocco, says that the state keeps people in a gray area, making them vulnerable to abuse and discrimination and forcing many into hiding.

 

“This is a great and bitter Moroccan comedy,” he said, adding of the pandemic that is exacerbating the situation: “Corona reveals every day a little more how the weakest on this Earth are even weaker and more ostracized than we thought. It’s sad. It’s tragic. It’s revolting.”

 

Morocco’s Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

 

The outing episode is seen by many as destroying a fragile balance that the country’s underground gay culture has built laboriously over the years, made even worse in a time of uncertainty and economic hardship. But they do have some support at home.

 

Nadia Bezad, the president of the Pan-African Organization for the Fight Against AIDS, said that while Morocco’s laws were unlikely to change, its health ministry encourages associations like hers to help vulnerable populations, including gay people.

 

“They can come to us without any danger or apprehension,” she said. “The reality is that they are tolerated but expected to remain invisible.”




Singapore gay sex ban: Court rejects appeals to overturn law

A bid to overturn a law that criminalises gay sex in Singapore has been dismissed by a court, dealing a blow to the city state’s LGBT movement.

 

BBC News (30.03.2020) – https://bbc.in/3bzqf9y – The high court rejected appeals by three gay men who had argued the colonial-era law was unconstitutional.

 

The presiding judge said the law was “important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs” in Singapore.

 

Under Section 377A, men found guilty of homosexual acts in public or private can be jailed for up to two years.

 

Speaking outside court, a lawyer for one of the complainants, M Ravi, said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling.

 

“It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary,” he said.

 

The legal challenges were the latest attempts to repeal Section 377A, after an effort by a gay couple in 2014 was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

 

But the LGBT rights movement in Singapore regained momentum after India’s decision to scrap similar legislation in 2018 renewed hopes for reform.

 

Singapore’s authorities rarely enforce Section 377A, first introduced in 1938 by British colonial rulers.

 

But Singapore’s leaders, including its current prime minister, have refused to remove it, saying it reflects the conservative mores of the city state’s society.

 

In Monday’s judgement, the court echoed that sentiment, saying non-enforcement of the law against consensual gay sex in private did not render it redundant.

 

The court concluded the law was constitutional because it did not violate articles regarding equality and freedom of speech.

 

The latest attempt to overturn the law was spearheaded by three people: a retired doctor, a DJ and an LGBT rights advocate.

 

One of the men told Reuters news agency he was disappointed by the ruling, adding “my eyes are firmly on the road ahead”.

 

Currently 70 countries criminalise same-sex relations.