Ten Indonesian Women Arrested for Suspected “Lesbian Behavior”

Ten women were arrested for being suspected lesbians in West Sumatra in Indonesia, reported Reuters.

The arrests were made due to suspected “lesbian deviant behavior,” according to police. Pol Yadrison, the head of the police force, said that one of the women’s Facebook accounts was being monitored by authorities.

The account showed the woman “kissing and cuddling” another woman, PinkNews reported, citing a statement made by Yadrison. This led to a search and arrest of the woman.

Yadrison added that reports on suspected LGBTQ activity make their way to authorities in Indonesia “almost every day.”

This arrest follows a trend of anti-LGBTQ action in Indonesia. In October, police arrested two men in their private home for allegedly establishing a Facebook group designed for same-sex couples. In the same month, multiple government officials across the West Java province called for policy to target LGBTQ people for arrest.

This national trend, according to Reuters, is part of a larger “government-driven moral panic about gender and sexuality” that has been ongoing for three years.

In January 2016, the minister of higher education tweeted that he wanted to ban LGBTQ student groups from college campuses. This sparked “a cascade of anti-LGBT+ vitriol,” including raids on public and private spaces with the suspicion of LGBTQ individuals inside.

In 2017, in the only region in Indonesia where Islamic law is fully enforced (Aceh province), two men were flogged in public for allegedly having sex.

Recent efforts have been made to criminalize homosexual acts through the Constitutional Court and parliament in Indonesia. As of now, however, the government does not consider it a criminal act.

Moreover, the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, described Islam in the country as “a force for moderation.” While national ideology includes “national unity, social justice and democracy alongside belief in God,” the trend of current events tells a contrasting story.

The current legal status is also under serious threat. PinkNews reported in May that a new criminal code prohibiting homosexual acts is currently under discussion. The goal of the discussions in the House of Representatives is to pass the code at some point in 2018.

Indonesia is also set to hold another presidential election in April of 2019. With the rising escalations of violence and arrest, the election could be dangerous as politicians look to use the mounting tide of sentiment for political gain.