Indonesian and International HIV and LGBT Organisations Protest Treatment of Gay Men Arrested in Surabaya Raid

By May 20, 2017 Newsroom

APCOM, Arus Pelangi, COC, GAYa Nusantara, GWL-INA, LBH Masyarakat, LBH Surabaya and MSMGF support the following statement:

We express serious concern over the treatment of 14 men who have been arrested on charges related to alleged consensual sex at a hotel in the Indonesian city of Surabaya on 30 April 2017.

It is disturbing that eight of the men are now facing pornography charges and one could face up to 15 years in jail for initiating and facilitating the event. It is also deeply troubling that all 14 men were forced to undergo HIV tests and that the results of these tests were released to the media.

Indonesian law protects the rights and the privacy of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as do a range of human rights treaties to which Indonesia is a signatory, and so to target these men in the way that the local police have is totally unacceptable and a threat to the privacy of not only LGBT people specifically but also to other Indonesians as well.

These kinds of targeted raids are driven by homophobia, and contribute to a climate of fear and hate that drives communities underground, and which cause negative outcomes for the health and safety of all Indonesians. Indonesia must respect the privacy and autonomy of all its citizens, and endeavor to promote and protect the rights of vulnerable populations.

Alarmingly, this is the first time that local authorities have arrested gay men in relation to alleged sexual behaviour, and sadly it follows an anti-LGBT campaign over the last 12 months by government officials and conservative community groups in Indonesia which has led to violence, harassment and state-sponsored discrimination against LGBTI people across Indonesia.

We protest the treatment of the men and call on Indonesian authorities to help quell the anti-LGBT campaign.

We are deeply concerned by the trauma these men have endured and are continuing to experience, as their humiliating treatment not only goes against natural justice and human rights, but also contravenes Indonesia’s commitment to international legal frameworks, as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a party, states that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of privacy.

Furthermore, being forced to undergo HIV and STI tests goes against internationally respected human rights principles of privacy, autonomy, and informed consent. In fact, the World Health Organisation’s 2015 Guidelines on HIV Testing and Counseling state that ‘mandatory, compulsory or coercive HIV testing is never appropriate.’ Then for police to release the results of these tests to the media is, once again, a clear contravention of privacy rights which is plainly intended to threaten and intimidate some of the people most vulnerable to HIV: gay men and other men who have sex with men.

Indonesia has a reputation as a friendly and welcoming nation, and incidents such as this tarnish the country’s reputation both regionally and internationally. Additionally, the acceptance of diversity is a value that underpins the success of Indonesia’s multicultural society and so applying this understanding to LGBT people should not be such a difficult proposition.

We commend Indonesian President Joko Widodo for his comments last year in support of LGBT people and communities and we ask that he stand by this commitment and intervene to save these men from the injustice they are facing.

More broadly, discrimination against LGBT people is a growing issue in countries across Asia and the Pacific. LGBT people in many Asian and Pacific countries are unjustly persecuted legally, politically and socially simply for showing their love for each other or for expressing their gender identity.

The discrimination and exclusion they experience can have a significant impact not only on their physical health through violence, but the effect of violence and intimidation can also be extremely debilitating in terms of mental wellbeing which can lead to issues related to self-harm.

LGBT people are not criminals. We are law-abiding citizens, friendly neighbours and loving family members just like everyone else, and there are many places in the world, including in Asia, which recognise and even celebrate the contribution that LGBT people make to their communities.

In the spirit of last week’s International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (May 17), we urge the Indonesian government and authorities across Asia and the Pacific to help end senseless violence and discrimination against LGBT people and work towards building inclusive societies which embrace diversity and which protect the rights of all minorities.


  • APCOM – community network advocating on issues which affect HIV, human rights, health and wellbeing in relation to gender and sexual minorities in Asia and the Pacific
  • Arus Pelangi – Indonesian organisation providing legal representation for LGBTI people and communities
  • COC Nederland – LGBTI organisation that has special consultative status with the United Nations.
  • GAYa Nusantara – Indonesian LGBT rights organisation
  • GWL-INA – Indonesian organisation working on HIV, health and rights issues for gay men, transgender people and men who have sex with men
  • LBH Masyarakat – Indonesia’s Community Legal Aid Institute that commits to working on legal and human rights issues of Indonesian citizens
  • LBH Surabaya – community legal aid organisation that commits to protecting and defending legal and human rights of Indonesian citizens living in the East Java province
  • The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF– international organisation focused on HIV, health and rights for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender

Donate to GAYa NUSANTARA or GWL-INA to fund their efforts to protect the rights of these men and to fight LGBT discrimination in Indonesia.


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