On Tuesday, a police chief in Indonesia announced the formation of a special task force to investigate gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activity.
The announcement came from Chief Anton Charliyan of West Java, which is not the Indonesian province where two gay men were recently caned in public. That occurred in Aceh province, which is governed according to the principles of Islamic sharia law. Homosexuality is technically legal in the rest of Indonesia, but somehow people still get arrested for participating in it.
Chief Charliyan does not expect his new joint task force of police, military, and bureaucratic officials to be very busy because he believes few of West Java’s 47 million residents are gay.
“I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition. If there’s anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.
He stated that the task force would focus on disrupting “secret parties” held by homosexuals, pointing to the big Jakarta raid as the sort of activity he wanted to discourage.
“It is not impossible that such activities could happen in West Java, a province with a large population. Therefore we set up this task force,” he said.
Charliyan added that he sees homosexuality as a “disease of the body and soul.”
LGBT activist Yuli Rustinawati retorted that Charliyan’s job is to investigate crimes, not diseases of the body and soul. “Police have a mandate to follow the law. They are not morals police,” Rustinawati said.
National police spokesmen made efforts to distance themselves from Charliyan’s program, saying it was “enough for us to handle it as they do regularly.” That is not much comfort to Indonesia’s gay population, since the police not only find reasons to arrest them frequently, but have a habit of mistakenly leaking data such as names and addresses, embarrassing arrest photos, and HIV tests to the media.
The secular government views homosexuality as everything from an unpopular eccentricity to a national security threat, while the rising Islamist powers of Indonesia hold even dimmer views.
The UK Independent notes that a group called the Islamic Defenders Front, known for “vigilante attacks on shops, bars, nightclubs, non-Muslims, secular campaigners, and LGBT activists” used the occasion of the public flogging in Aceh province to advertise that they are ready to “defend sharia law” at all costs.