Bangkok, 29 January 2016 – APCOM is backing Forum LGBTIQ Indonesia, Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (YLBHI), and Jaringan GWL-INA in their strong disappointment about recent discriminatory and stigmatising remarks towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals made by Indonesian politicians.

On January 24, after discovering the presence of a support group for LGBT students at the University of Indonesia, Muhammad Nasir, the minister of research, technology and higher education, stated that he would ban LGBT Indonesians from higher education institutions across the nation. Although Nasir later backtracked his statement that he would only ban the “immoral” campus activities of the LGBT students, other prominent politicians have chimed in, fueling the discrimination and stigma against Indonesian sexual minorities. Negative notions associating any activities conducted by LGBT students with debauched behavior have, since then, been voiced by the country’s assembly leader, members of parliament, and minister of education and culture. On January 26, Republika, one of the nationwide highest selling newspapers, ran the “LGBT poses serious threat” headline on its front page.

“It is imperative that all public officials abide by the Indonesian Constitution and international standards listed in the Yogyakarta Principles, and fully respect the human rights of all people, including LGBTI people and others of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities,” said APCOM’s Chair, Dédé Oetomo, also founder of GAYa NUSANTARA, an LGBT community organisation based in Surabaya. Dédé’s statement sums up as a reminder to President Jokowi in bringing equality to all Indonesians, regardless of their sexual orientations and gender identities, particularly to young LGBT individuals who need a safe space the most in pursuing their rights to education. A recent study commissioned by UNESCO stated that, in Indonesia, LGBT persons who had been bullied in school said it affected their ability to learn and caused many to drop out; 17% of respondents in this study said they had attempted suicide.

“Homophobia and transphobia hurt LGBTI people’s ability to participate fully as citizens and negatively impact their health, including mental and sexual health, such as [suffering from] depression and [lack of access to] HIV testing and treatment,” added Midnight Poonkasetwattana, APCOM’s Executive Director. HIV epidemic among Indonesian gay, bisexual men and transgender people, particularly the young cohort in big cities, has been escalating. Latest epidemiological study records that HIV prevalence among gay and bisexual men in Jakarta has increased fourfold from 2% to 8.1% in the past four years. Homophobia and transphobia will only delay our goal to end AIDS by 2030.

Sexual and gender diversities are still characterized by many States and a majority of people worldwide as mental heath problems. Support groups for young LGBT people, on both mental and sexual health, needs to be cultivated in Indonesia. Community organisation members of Jaringan GWL-INA, the country’s largest LGBT network, are among the examples of the provider of such services.  Coinciding with the “mental health and well being” theme of this year’s International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, APCOM will continue to support these community organisations in their efforts, and will remain strongly protecting the mental health and well being of LGBT communities in Indonesia and across Asia and the Pacific region.

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