Indonesia’s Top Court Just Blocked A Gay Sex Ban, But Homophobia Is Running Rampant

"There is no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement,” said President Joko Widodo.

On Thursday, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled against a proposed ban on gay sex. The 5-4 decision is being considered a victory for the country’s LGBT community, but it is a small one.

The Family Love Alliance, an Islamic activist group, proposed the ban, which would have also barred sex outside of marriage. Member of the Alliance reportedly wept as the ruling was read.

In the majority opinion, the justices said it wasn’t the court’s role to create laws or criminalize private behavior. In a dissent, though, four judges argued homosexuality and sex outside marriage should be outlawed on moral grounds.

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While only parliament can pass amendments, support from the court would influence members’ decision. “We are working on the ground level and know exactly the magnitude of this problem on the ground,” Alliance member Euis Sunarti told reporters.

It’s a rare win for LGBT Indonesians, though, who have seen an uptick in witch hunts, bigotry, and discrimination. Homosexuality is still legal in most of Indonesia, but in May two young men were caned for having gay sex in Aceh, a semiautonomous region governed by Shariah law. Earlier in the year, a West Java police chief announced plans for a task force with the sole purpose of identifying and persecuting gay people.

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Even President Joko Widodo, who has spoken out against homophobic violence, insists “there is no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement.”

In September, police evicted a dozen women from a home in Bogor on suspicion of lesbianism. (A local religious youth group called authorities, claiming women living together was “against the teachings of Islam.”)

And just this week, ten men were sentenced to two to three years in prison after an earlier raid of a gay sauna in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city.

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More than 140 people were detained in the May raid—those charged include the club’s managers, a trainer, security guard, strippers, and two patrons caught performing sex acts.

Indonesia has historically been considered a more moderate Muslim country, but extremists have been gaining a foothold: Male actors are already barred from doing drag on television but this year, representatives passed a law prohibiting any LGBT characters on TV. Lawmakers have also called for a ban on LGBT emojis and Grindr.

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