Wary of past attacks by hard-liners, the country’s gay and lesbian community chose to mark International Day Against Homophobia on Tuesday quietly, with a view to raise awareness and acceptance through the media.
Hartoyo, general secretary of Ourvoice, a Jakarta-based gay rights group, told the Jakarta Globe that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBTIQ) believed a media campaign was the best way to address growing homophobia.
“Learning from our previous experiences — where LGBTIQ events were attacked by intolerant groups — we now prefer to do a media campaign to introduce the diversity of sexual orientation to the wider community,” he said.
He said the media wielded enormous influence in shaping public opinion, but in the past had often been used to discriminate against marginalized social groups such as the LGBTIQ .
Homosexuality, he said, had often been portrayed as a sexual aberration or deviant behavior, labels used to denounce the LGBTIQ directly and indirectly.
“So we need to work together with a smart media to introduce people to and educate them about what the LGBT community really is about,” he said.
Hartoyo added that the government needed to respect and provide full protection for all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Dede Oetomo, founder of the country’s first gay group, Gaya Nusantara, said the rise in homophobia had been a recent phenomenon. “Homosexuality is actually part of Indonesia’s history and diversity but, unfortunately, it is not recognized anymore by society because of modernization,” he said.
“It is OK to disagree about things, but it is very important that we respect each other’s beliefs, including on gender and sexual orientation.”
Meanwhile, to prevent a repeat of the imposter “wife” case that shocked a Bekasi community last month, the government is mulling a requirement that couples undergo physical examinations before being married.
Rohadi Abdul Fatah, director for Islam and Shariah law at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, said the requirement was being considered because of the scandal surrounding Rahmat Sulistyo, a k a Fransiska Annastasya Oktaviany, who allegedly posed as a woman to dupe a visually-impaired man into marrying him.
The marriage has since been declared invalid and Rahmat is being investigated by police.
Rohadi said the physical checkup idea would be proposed to the minister and, if accepted, would become one of the requirements for Muslim weddings.
“This policy will only be implemented in Islamic weddings, with brides being checked by female officials and grooms checked by male officials at the Religious Affairs Office,” he said.
Additional reporting by Antara