Medan mayor’s remark again raises LGBT issue to the forefront

In the Muslim-majority country, however, LGBT rights continue to be a highly controversial issue.

Fikri Harish

Fikri Harish

The Jakarta Post


In this undated photo, a passerby hugs an activist campaigning for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community during Car Free Day in Jakarta.(The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana)

January 4, 2023

JAKARTA – An offhand remark by the mayor of Medan, North Sumatra, Bobby Nasution, made on New Year’s Eve declaring that the city of Medan was “anti-LGBT” has reignited the debate on LGBT issues, with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) cautioning against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“On my walk here from the mayor’s office, I saw a lot of [guys being affectionate with each other]. There’s no LGBT in Medan, the city is anti-LGBT,” said Bobby to the laughter of the crowd in a video shared on his Twitter account.

The son-in-law to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo clarified on Monday that while his remark was intended to be humorous, he maintained that same-sex marriage had no place in Indonesian culture, as reported by Tribunnews.

Nevertheless, his remark has again stirred a debate on LGBT issues among the public, with newly elected Komnas HAM commissioner Anis Hidayah saying that according to Article 27 of the 1945 Constitution, all Indonesian citizens are equal before the law and are guaranteed the same rights.

“This means that there can be no discrimination against other citizens, whether it’s based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or other factors,” Anis told Kompas TV.

While Bobby was adamant that LGBT had no place in Medan, and the country does not recognize same-sex marriage, there is technically no law that explicitly forbids same-sex relationships in most of Indonesia. The only exception is Aceh, the only province in the country where sharia is officially practiced.

In the Muslim-majority country, however, LGBT rights continue to be a highly controversial issue.

The country’s revised Criminal Code, which was passed into law on Dec. 6, 2022 also stirred up similar controversies. While civil rights groups and even the United Nations have criticized the morality clauses in the new Criminal Code for potentially criminalizing LGBT people, the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has argued that it did not go far enough.

“LGBT behavior and all of its campaigning clearly violates religious and proper moral values and could corrupt the nation’s character. As such, we shouldn’t be half-hearted in enacting anti-LGBT values in the new criminal code,” PKS lawmaker Jazuli Juwani said at the time.

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