JAKARTA (Reuters) - Nearly 90 percent of Indonesians who understand the term LGBT feel “threatened” by the community and believe their religion forbids same-sex relations, a survey showed on Thursday.
Homosexuality is not regulated by law in Indonesia, except in Aceh province where Islamic law bans same-sex relations. But the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation has seen a rise in hostility toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, with activists saying their rights are not being adequately protected by the state.
“The survey finds that, generally, the Indonesian public views the LGBT (community) negatively,” the Saiful Mujani Research Centre said on its website.
“But the public is also of the view that the LGBT community has the right to live in Indonesia and that the government should protect them like other citizens.”
There are sizeable minorities of Christians, Hindus, and those who adhere to native beliefs among Indonesia’s 250 million people.
Indonesian police have over the last few years stepped up raids targeting “spas” or what they call “gay sex parties” and charged many of those involved with violating strict pornography laws.
This has raised alarm bells among rights activists who say the law is being used to unfairly target LGBT individuals. More than 300 people were arrested in 2017 for alleged LGBT-behaviour, according to Human Rights Watch.
“The police should stop criminalising LGBT individuals and... instead protect them principally in their private spaces from harassment and intimidation,” said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch.
The Constitutional Court last month struck down a petition by a conservative group to ban all consensual extramarital sex including same-sex relations. But the group intends to lobby parliament as politicians deliberate revisions to the criminal code.
The pollster surveyed a total of 1,220 people of various religious backgrounds across Indonesia between March 2016 and December 2017 and found that 87 percent of them considered the LGBT community a “threat to private or public life”.
A similar proportion of people in the survey disagreed that an LGBT individual should be able to hold a leading public office, and said that they believed their religion prohibited LGBT activity.
The survey also found that around half the respondents did not know the meaning of the term “LGBT”, which was used in all survey questions. The results were based on those who did.
Half of those who were aware of the term said the government should protect the LGBT community. A Pew Research Center survey found in 2013 that around 93 percent of Indonesians believed society should not accept homosexuality.
Reporting and writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie