The marginalisation of Indonesia’s LGBTIQ community is fuelling an HIV “epidemic” in the country, according to a new report.
The prevalence of HIV among gay men in Indonesia has surged five-fold from 5 per cent in 2007 to 25 per cent in 2015, Human Rights Watch wrote in their Scared In Public and Now No Privacy report.
The report blames a recent “moral panic” against the LGBTIQ community in recent years, which has had “serious consequences” for public health and safe-sex education efforts in the country.
HIV outreach workers are reporting difficulties locating the people who need their help, including condom distribution, blood testing, education, and psychological counselling.
“Abusive and discriminatory police actions including raids on private spaces and the use of condoms as evidence of purported crimes has harmed HIV education and outreach services by instilling fear among sexual and gender minority communities who urgently need such services,” the report says.
Kyle Knight, LGBT rights researcher and author of the report, said the Indonesian government’s failure to address anti-LGBT moral panic in the country is having “dire consequences for public health.”
“The Indonesian government should recognize that its role in abuses against LGBT people is seriously compromising the country’s response to HIV,” he said.
Throughout 2017, Indonesian police raided saunas, nightclubs, hotel rooms, hair salons, and private homes on suspicion that LGBTIQ people were inside.
Last year more than 300 LGBTIQ people were arrested during raids by police and militant Islamist groups, the highest number ever, the report states.
Some of those arrested were paraded naked in front of the media and condoms were used as “evidence” of crimes, which further discourages Indonesians from using them.
Knight said the vitriolic anti-LGBT rhetoric from public officials “effectively granted social sanction and political cover to violence and discrimination.”
“To correct its course, the government needs to uphold its commitments to ‘unity in diversity’ by halting and investigating unlawful police raids and ensure discrimination is not enshrined in its laws.”
Homosexuality isn’t illegal in most of Indonesia, but police in the Muslim-majority country have used Indonesia’s strict anti-pornography legislation to target members of the LGBTI community in recent years.