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Komnas HAM Chairman: Sexual Orientation is a Basic Human Right
Tuesday, 06 February, 2018 | 20:02 WIB
Komnas HAM Chairman: Sexual Orientation is a Basic Human Right

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - THE furor over the issue of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community suddenly became a discussion at the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). This started when Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Zulkifli Hasan made a statement in January that five factions in the House of Representatives (DPR) agreed to acknowledge LGBTs. Komnas HAM Chairman Ahmad Taufan Damanik then figuratively tore to shreds the draft revision of the Criminal Code currently being discussed in the DPR.

Taufan had gotten a copy of its proposed provisions on the criminalization of same-sex obscenities committed against children in Article 495. He said Komnas HAM considers those provisions discriminative. "Is an obscene act committed against someone of another gender then not as criminal as one against a person of the same gender?" Taufan, 52, asked.

The lecturer in politics at North Sumatra University suspects that there are efforts to blow up the LGBT issue for political purposes. Persecution of LGBTs is already happening now. On Saturday two weeks ago, the North Aceh Police precinct raided salons run by transvestites. Taufan says the state need not regulate the sexual preferences of its citizens. Allowing the state to enter into citizen’s private spaces, he says, is like opening the door to restrictions of other individual rights. "If so, we would have no liberties left," he says.

Last Thursday Taufan met Tempo reporters Angelina Anjar Sawitri and Reza Maulana at his office. For almost two hours Taufan, born in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra, talked about the rights of LGBTs, Komnas HAM’s homework, and even about his adopted brother who is a transvestite. "Each time I talk about the LGBT issue, I am reminded of him."

What will the consequences be for LGBTs if the draft Criminal Code (KUHP) revisions are ratified?

The draft shows the state’s denial of the principle of equality before the law. Why is it necessary to have an article criminalizing same-sex obscene acts? Are obscene acts between those of different sexes somehow less criminal? We need not assume that the effect of an obscene act on a victim of the same sex is worse. If that article stays, it will be discriminatory against LGBTs.

Is the effect already visible?

LGBTs are afraid, while other groups are worried about an LGBT emergency. Persecutions start occurring, such as the raid on transvestite-run hair salons in North Aceh on January 27.

Are there more reports of violence against LGBTs?

Not many. Most (LGBTs) are afraid. Their organizations have even taken down their signs.

What is Komnas HAM doing?

We asked police for clarification about this case. National Police headquarters has already questioned North Aceh Police Chief Lieut. Col. Untung Sangaji. What concerns us is the effect of the revisions to Article 495 of the Criminal Code on obscene acts between those of the same sex, plus the political uproar (surrounding it). I plan to meet the DPR’s Law Commission and the National Law Guidance Agency. There is no need for an article using the words ‘same-sex’. Then, if there are to be provisions on elements of violence, they can be included in the chapter on sexual violence. Not as it is in the current draft: in the chapter on morality. There are those who believe the state’s entry into a person’s bedroom is simply upholding morality. In my view, the state would then endanger that person’s privacy.

Why is that dangerous?

Excessive fear of LGBTs is making the state involve itself in personal matters. Letting the state, in this case law enforcers, into anyone’s private space, including their sexual orientation, is the same as letting it get involved in our orientation of how and what we can think. If this is not challenged, then, without realizing it, we could end up under an extraordinarily authoritarian regime with no personal liberties left.

When did the anti-LGBT issue begin to become widespread?

After the MPR Speaker (Zulkifli Hasan) mentioned that five DPR factions approved of LGBTs last month. It also came to the fore in December last year when the Constitutional Court refused to broaden its interpretation of adultery and LGBTs.

Is the mushrooming of this issue linked to the 2019 General Election?

The LGBT issue is being extraordinarily politicized. In my view, it is fine for politicians to compete against each other. But they should not make any group, particularly a vulnerable minority one, be the victims of that. What is the benefit of sacrificing an element of our own society? In fact, this group has always been part of our society.

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine.

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