Homosexuality continues to be seen as a mental disease in Indonesia despite two decades of formal recognition to the contrary, activists said on Monday.
Donny Suryono, from a coalition of more than 60 groups representing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, said the lack of government support for the LGBT community increased the marginalization of its members.
“Up to this very moment, the stigma of associating homosexuality with a mental illness continues to exist, and what’s even worse is that the government hasn’t done anything to stop it,” he said at a press conference linked to last week’s International Day Against Homophobia.
On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization officially declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness. Indonesia’s Ministry of Health followed suit in 1993.
Hartoyo, a researcher from the gay rights group Our Voice, said the idea that homosexuality was a mental disease was so deeply ingrained in Indonesian thinking that families often forced their gay children into heterosexual marriages in the hope that it would “cure” them.
He said this constituted one of the many forms of abuse still suffered by the LGBT community.
“Abuse often happens at home, which is supposedly the safest place for anyone to be themselves. And because it happens in this private environment, many times those cases go unreported,” he said.
In the past three months, the Our Voice Web site has received 20 reports of abuse against homosexuals and transsexuals committed by family members.
Hartoyo said discrimination also occurred at schools, where homosexuals, feminine boys and masculine girls were often bullied by their peers and often chose to drop out of school.
He said there were at least 10 national laws and regional bylaws that discriminated against the LGBT community, including the 2008 Anti-Pornography Law, which categorizes homosexuality as deviant sexual behavior.
“It’s hurtful for us to hear such things,” he said.
Donny said that despite these discriminatory laws and bylaws, Indonesia also had several other regulations guaranteeing protection and equality for members of the LGBT community.
The country has also ratified the 2005 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which nullifies prohibitions on homosexual behavior.
However, Donny said the implementation and enforcement of these regulations by the authorities was far from perfect.