Catholics in predominantly-Muslim Indonesia have become vocal opponents of a new provincial order aimed at suppressing LGBTQ+ people in education, arguing that the order could institutionalize discrimination.
The province of South Sulawesi has issued an order that limits the recognition of the existence of LGBTQ+ people in educational institutes and in society at large, reported UCA News. The order indicates that LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff, and allies at educational institutions “need to be reported to the authorities and, if deemed necessary, legal action should be taken against them,” and efforts to promote support for LGBTQ+ people must be stopped.
Hendrika Mayora Victoria, a transgender Catholic, called the order the “institutionalization of discrimination.” UCA News reported some comments from Victoria, who is advocacy coordinator of the LGBT advocacy group Fajar Sikka:
“It is also unfortunate that such discrimination targets educational institutions that should foster a spirit of respect for diversity,” she told UCA News.
“She said the circular contradicted the government’s commitment to fighting various forms of violence in schools.
“‘I believe that this circular will trigger violence against LGBT groups, including bullying. This is a policy product of homophobic people,’ she said.”
Echoing concerns of abuse against the LGBTQ+ community, Franciscan Fr. Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chair of the National Council for Catholic Education, told UCA News:
“‘[The policy] has the potential to be used as a tool to legitimize the persecution of LGBT people… In my opinion, the government should base its attitude on values that support the spirit of respecting the human rights of every individual, including the LGBT people, and distances themselves from exclusionary views.'”
Mbula encourages the national Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology to take a stand against these actions to prevent other local provinces from making similar decrees.
While Indonesia does not criminalize LGBTQ+ people nationally, local provinces have regulations targeting the community and its allies. For example, in December 2021, the government of a city in West Java province passed an ordinance to control “sexually deviant behavior.” Arus Pelangi, an Indonesia-based LGBTQ+ group, “recorded 172 cases of persecution of LGBT people including intimidation, physical and verbal abuse, and maltreatment between 2006 to 2017,” according to UCA News.
Negative attitudes against LGBTQ+ people are extremely high in Indonesia, with one 2018 survey finding nearly 88% of respondents consider the queer community a threat. This reality means attaining rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people is a difficult journey, but Catholic advocates like Hendrika Mayora Victoria still move forward for small gains. As Victoria said, “We are realistic and therefore only hope that our existence is appreciated.”
—Bobby Nichols (he/him) and Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2022