How The Mayor Of Medan Created An Uncomfortable City For LGBTQ+ People

Medan, the capital of Indonesia's North Sumatra province.

Medan has become a source of serious concern for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Indonesia, as the mayor has declared his city to be anti-LGBTQ.

No Room For LGBTQ Love In Medan

New Year In Medan: Mayor Nasution Shocked By Same-Sex Couples

In Medan, the largest city in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, Mayor Muhammad Bobby Nasution was shocked to see same-sex couples celebrating New Year's Eve in the streets. The mayor showed his dismay in a clear display of disdain by declaring that such behavior would not be tolerated within the city in the future.

"Along the road in front of City Hall, I wondered why I saw men with other men. That is unacceptable. There is no LGBT in the city of Medan. We are anti-LGBT," he said on January 1st.

And according to him, "there isn't a single ethnic group in Medan that supports same-sex relationships."

He encourages singles to seek straight partners and have kids instead of flirting with someone of the same gender.

Mayor Nasution's Homophobic Statement Provoked Outrage Among Citizens

Mayor Nasution's homophobic declaration has cast a pall over the LGBTQ+ community. It also triggered outrage among LGBTQ+ associations and organizations that fight social injustices.

Anis Hidayah, the commissioner of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), warned Mayor Nasution that any form of discrimination based on race, religion, or sexual orientation will not be tolerated in the country.

"All citizens of this nation must be protected from discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and more," Hidayah said.

But More Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws Emerge

In two Indonesian provinces with a predominantly Muslim population, Aceh and South Sumatra, engaging in same-sex sexual activity is strictly prohibited by law. But outside of these provinces, this activity is not explicitly subject to legal sanctions.

Despite this, opposition to the LGBTQ+ movement has intensified in recent years, leading to systematic persecution and discrimination against its members. This discrimination is grounded in ambiguous laws based on moral values. Examples of such laws include a ban on gay and lesbian online content, as well as an outright ban on all LGBTQ+ events in the country.

In addition, Indonesia's Parliament passed a revamped Penal Code in 2022. Beginning in 2025, this revised Penal Code will prohibit sexual relations outside of marriage, which may be used to target the LGBTQ+ community.

And within the past few months, there have been multiple arrests for alleged homosexuality in raids conducted on LGBTQ+-friendly establishments.

Despite the hostile environment, activists and organizations don't stop in their pursuit to promote acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community within Indonesia and ensure access to equality for all.

Nevertheless, LGBTQ+ rights organizations recognize Indonesia as one of the most hostile countries to LGBTQ+ people. A 2019 Pew Research study showed that only 9% of Indonesians accept homosexuality, a number that paints a picture of a deeply homophobic atmosphere in the country.

Acceptance Of LGBTQ+ Remains A Challenge In Indonesia

Despite the tireless efforts of the LGBTQ+ community to promote acceptance, combat discrimination, and ensure equal access, the mayor of Medan shocked members of the community when he declared his city to be anti-LGBTQ during New Year's Eve celebrations. This incident serves as a reminder of the difficulties LGBTQ+ individuals continue to experience in Indonesia, a country where anti-LGBTQ+ state-sanctioned laws are regularly imposed in a hostile environment, causing individuals to face harassment and discrimination.

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Sunday, 29 January 2023