Targeting of LGBT and Christians in Indonesia raise alarm

There are growing concerns about the increasing influence of hardliners in the majority-Muslim country of Indonesia.

One group that is being targeted is the LGBT community, with CNN reporting a few days ago that "in less than 18 months, being gay in Indonesia has gone from widely tolerated to just plain dangerous."

Last month, two men were caned after being reportedly caught and convicted of having consensual sex and not long after, people caught at a suspected gay party were arrested and had their pictures posted online, notes Sky News.

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Public canings in Indonesia
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Public canings in Indonesia

An Indonesian man is publicly caned for having gay sex in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Syariah police women hold an Indonesian woman after being publicly caned for spending time with a man who is not her husband in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

An Indonesian man is publicly caned for having gay sex in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Syariah policemen hold an Indonesian man after being publicly caned for having gay sex, in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Indonesian police women guard people who watch a man publicly caned for having gay sex, in front of Syuhada mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Syariah policemen hold an Indonesian man after public caning for having gay sex, in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

People surround a car with men and women arriving at Syuhada mosque to be publicly caned, in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

An Indonesian woman (C) who will be caned for spending time with a man who is not her husband arrives at Syuhada mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)

An Indonesian woman is publicly caned for spending time with a man who is not her husband, in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
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A police task force has also been formed in a province called West Java to target LGBT activity.

Anton Charliyan, the police chief responsible for the task force, has been quoted by Reuters as saying, "I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition. If there's anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society."

These crackdowns are happening despite the fact that homosexuality is legal in most parts of Indonesia.

In fact, as human rights activist Benedict Rogers said in a recent Japan Times op-ed, "Indonesia likes to pride itself as a role model — a Muslim-majority democracy that is moderate and pluralistic."

However, he argues that this is no longer the case, citing the closures of churches and other attacks against religious minority groups.

The trend has also affected the local political arena with the surprising defeat and subsequent imprisonment of Jakarta's popular incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, notes the Washington Post.

The ethnically Chinese and Christian leader was reportedly sentenced to two years after being accused of blasphemy for referring to a passage in the Koran.

As for why the climate in Indonesia is changing, a 2016 column from the Center for Strategic & International Studies suggests that it has to do with the government's lax punishment of those who target minorities and a strong nationalistic point of view held by some top leaders.

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