Maloney Leads Effort to Prevent Continued Civil, Human Rights Abuses in Indonesia
Washington — In response to numerous reports of state-sponsored discrimination in Indonesia on the basis of religion, gender, and sexual orientation, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, led 36 of his colleagues on a letter to the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States. In the letter, Rep. Maloney calls on the Ambassador to proactively attend to the human rights situation and warning of the possible diplomatic and economic consequences of continued rights abuses.
“Indonesia is an important leader and regional ally in Southeast Asia – and they have a responsibility over there to set a good example of what a democracy should look like, but lately they haven’t been living up to that responsibility,” said Rep. Maloney. “Oppressing your own citizens because of their religion, their gender, or their sexual orientation undermines democratic values and erodes civil society and I won’t stand for it.”
"The horrific violence targeting LGBTQ people in Indonesia is part of a troubling yet growing trend driven by hate and fear around the world, including in places like Chechnya, Bangladesh, and elsewhere," said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). "With an absence of action from the Trump administration on these human rights abuses, we are grateful for Rep. Maloney's leadership in calling for an end to this violence and putting Indonesia officials on notice that the eyes of the world are closely watching."
“The alarming situation in Indonesia should be of concern to us all. It is not surprising to see an escalation of abuses against the LGBT population take place in a context of human rights deterioration more generally,” said Shawn Gaylord, Advocacy Council at Human Rights First. “We commend Congressman Maloney and all of those who joined him for showing that there is still leadership in the United States that will not back down when it comes to leadership on the human rights of LGBT people worldwide.”
"These actions targeting LGBT and other minorities put at risk Indonesia's reputation for tolerance, and threaten the positive relations between our countries that so many Americans want to see grow,” said Mark Bromley, Council Chair, Council for Global Equality. “We hope Indonesian authorities will make every effort to consciously include LGBT Indonesians in the political, economic and social rights so important to all families."
Rep. Maloney has a strong record of promoting human rights worldwide. In 2015, following reports that the Turkish government dispatched riot police to disband a pride parade, Rep. Maloney led a letter to the Turkish government expressing concern with the handling of the situation. Last year, Rep. Maloney led another letter to Saudi Arabia expressing support for the Saudi LGBTQ community and highlighting concerns for human rights in the Kingdom. Last month, Maloney led a video campaign to raise awareness of extreme human rights abuses in Chechnya to prevent an escalation of violence against gay men.
The letter is supported by the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the Council for Global Equality. Thirty-six Members of Congress signed onto the letter with Rep. Maloney including Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), William R. Keating (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Brian Higgins, (D-NY) Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) Julia Brownley (D-CA), José E. Serrano (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Ted W. Lieu (D-CA), and Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI).
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
We are writing in regards to recent reports of possible human rights abuses in Indonesia targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ). These attacks are an unfortunate symptom of the growing radicalization in Indonesia that has targeted women, religious and ethnic minorities, and which could negatively impact diplomatic relations and foreign investments in your country, if left unchecked.
We have recently seen reports of a public caning of two gay men in Aceh province on May 23rd. The men were photographed and humiliated by thousands of jeering spectators as they received their punishment. But worrisome incidents are occurring beyond Aceh as well. Other reports demonstrate a disturbing pattern of police targeting LGBTQ people and other minorities across the country. On May 24, West Java police chief Anton Charliyan said that he plans to establish a task force to persecute LGBTQ Indonesians, adding that LGBTQ people suffer from “a disease” and will “face the law and heavy social sanctions.” Disturbingly, Charliyan’s statement echoes the rhetoric of Banda Aceh Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin, who announced in February 2016 that she would create a “special team” to make the public more aware of the “threat of LGBTQ” and to “train” LGBTQ people to “return to a normal life.”
We were also disturbed by reports that on April 30, 2017, police raided a private gathering of gay men in Surabaya, arrested 14 men, and subjected them to HIV tests without their consent, and a report that on May 21st police raided the Atlantis Spa in Jakarta, arrested 141 men and charged 10 for holding an alleged sex party under 2008 Anti-Pornography law, a provision often used against LGBTQ persons. Officers allegedly paraded the suspects naked in front of the media, and interrogated them while they remained unclothed.
These attacks fall into a problematic pattern of increasing intolerance for minorities across Indonesia, a trend demonstrated most recently by the sentencing of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, to two years in prison for blasphemy. This new court ruling, combined with authorities’ behavior towards LGBTQ people, is sending a chilling message about the current state of pluralism, tolerance, and stability in Indonesia.
While the United States respects the values and traditions of other nations, we cannot turn a blind eye to the persecution of minority communities, whether women, religious minorities, or LGBTQ people. Such attacks can metastasize and put an entire country’s stability, security, and foreign investments at risk. We would also note that economic studies have demonstrated that discriminatory practices and laws can severely impact a country’s economic health and foreign investment levels. A recent study by the Williams Institute at the University of California found that anti-LGBTQ discrimination may be lowering Indonesia’s gross domestic product by as much as $12 billion.
We deeply value our nation’s ties with Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, a democratic leader in the Muslim world, and a close ally and trade partner. In the spirit of that friendship, we urge the Indonesian government to exercise its responsibility to investigate and put a stop to repressive and discriminatory actions against minorities. Indonesia, as much as any other country, should uphold the rule of law and affirmatively protect the civil and human rights of all its citizens, no matter their identities, sexual orientations, genders, religions, or religious views.
Please know that we will continue monitoring the situation, and hope that Indonesia will proactively attend to this human rights situation.
Thank you for your attention to this letter.