Sad backlash against this rainbow flag in Indonesia


indonesia rainbow flag
Images: SEA Today, British Embassy Jakarta

The Indonesian government has summoned Britain’s ambassador after his embassy caused outrage in the country by flying a rainbow flag in Jakarta.

With the exception of the one province of Aceh, homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia.

However, the country’s LGBTIQ+ community faces widespread discrimination and stigma, and dangerous “conversion” therapy is common.

Human rights groups warn of growing intolerance against LGBTIQ+ people in Indonesia. In recent years, conservatives unsuccessfully pushed for laws criminalising same-sex relationships.

Last week, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, the British embassy raised the rainbow flag in Jakarta.

The embassy shared a photo of it on the official Instagram page and declared the UK “holds that LGBT+ rights are fundamental human rights”.

“Sometimes it is important to take a stand for what you think is right, even if disagreement between friends can be uncomfortable,” they said.

“Everyone, everywhere, should be free to love who they love and express themselves without fear of violence or discrimination.

“They should not have to suffer shame or guilt just for being who they are.

“Criminalisation still happens: in 71 countries for consensual same-sex acts; in 15 countries for gender expression and identity through ‘cross-dressing’; and in 26 countries for all transgender people.

“Harassment and violence are a routine part of LGBT+ lives, everywhere. This must change. We must work to make progress.

The post concluded, “We urge the international community to eradicate discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to promote diversity and tolerance.

“We urge countries to decriminalise consensual same sex relations, and to introduce legislation that protects LGBT+ people from all forms of discrimination.”

Indonesia conservative fury over rainbow flag ‘harassment’

But the British embassy’s rainbow flag post caused outrage among Indonesian conservatives.

Prominent Islamic movement Alumni 212 Brotherhood said the flag attacked the “sacred values of Indonesia”.

The group described homosexuality as “deviant behaviour that requires treatment” and said normalising it is “misguided propaganda”.

They demanded the government expel British ambassador Owen Jenkins from Indonesia over the “harassment and provocation” of the rainbow flag.

Indonesia’s top Islamic scholars body the Ulema Council also demanded the government reprimand the embassy for supporting LGBTIQ+ equality.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah (pictured above) slammed the move as “disrespectful” and confirmed Jenkins had been “summoned”.

“[The flag-raising], as well as [the post] on the British Embassy’s official social media page, was highly insensitive and created a polemic among Indonesian people,” he said.

“The foreign ministry reminds foreign representatives to be respectful of the sensitivities among Indonesians on matters relevant with their culture, religion and belief.

Faizasyah said an embassy is sovereign territory however the diplomatic rules state only a nation’s flag is permitted.

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