JAKARTA: The discussions around revisions to Indonesia’s penal code showed that “strains of intolerance” have crept into the country, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday (Feb 7).
Indonesia’s parliament is currently drafting proposed revisions to the criminal code to expand the definition of adultery and criminalise consensual sex between legally unmarried persons, and could include same-sex relationships.
Speaking to journalists at the end of his three-day visit to Indonesia, Zeid said: "The extremist views playing out in the political arena are deeply worrying, accompanied as they are by rising levels of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence in various parts of the country, including Aceh."
Same-sex relationships are frowned upon but currently not criminalised in the world’s most populous Muslim country, except in the province of Aceh which is ruled by Syariah law.
Just last month, police in North Aceh reportedly raided hair salons and detained 12 transgender individuals who were forced to cut their hair, stripped, beaten and made to wear male clothing. Google also removed one of the world’s largest gay dating apps from the Indonesian version of its online store, in response to government demands.
Zeid said he had raised the LGBT issue when he met Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday.
“If Muslim societies expect others to fight against Islamophobia, we should be prepared to end discrimination at home too," Mr Zeid told journalists. "Islamophobia is wrong. Discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs and colour is wrong. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or any other status is wrong.”
“If (the) Muslim community believe they have a right to argue against, to fight against Islamophobia in other parts of the world, it's difficult to make that argument if within Muslim communities we are discriminating against others,” he added. “It's mutually exclusive.”
Local media reports said that during the meeting, Widodo had cited local culture and beliefs in explaining why the LGBT community was not acceptable in the country.
But Zeid said: “We hear this in many places, but if it’s the culture then why are you revising the law? The law should have been in there from the very beginning, the birth of the nation.”
The UN human rights chief also met with top officials, national human rights institutions, victims of rights abuses, civil society representatives and religious leaders during his visit.
He lauded Indonesia’s achievements, its actions in tackling the Rohingya issue and its progress since 1998 to transition to a democracy with strong economic growth.