Indonesian police chief announces task force to target homosexuals
Anton Charliyan, police chief of Indonesia's most populous province of West Java, said on Wednesday that the task force will include specialists, and will be especially determined to disrupt "secret parties," Reuters reported, citing Detik news portal.
However, Charliyan's task force approach is not supported by police at the national level, according to national police spokesperson Setyo Wasisto.
"It is enough for us to handle it as we do regularly," the spokesperson said, as quoted by Reuters.
The police chief's announcement comes just one day after two gay men were publicly caned in the province of Aceh. A crowd of around 1,000 people watched the punishment, with many cheering and filming the event.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia where homosexuality is officially illegal, criminalized in 2014. Aceh authorities enforce Sharia law along with the national criminal code, following a 2006 agreement with local separatists.
However, activists say police all across the country target the LGBT community.
On Sunday, authorities raided the Atlantis Gym and Sauna in Jakarta, arresting 141 patrons and staffers.
Police distributed photos of the suspects – in varying states of undress – on social media, but later claimed the release was due to "procedural errors," the Jakarta Post reported.
Ten people were charged with violating the country's pornography laws, according to a Jakarta police spokesman cited by Reuters. Five remain under investigation and 126 were released.
Responding to the Sunday raid, Charliyan told reporters that LGBT people suffered a "disease of the body and soul," and called on the public to report their activities, according to Reuters.
"I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition," Charliyan said. "If there's anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo told the BBC last year that "there should be no discrimination against anyone," before noting that homosexuality was unpopular in his country.
However, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has suggested that homosexuality is a national security threat, alleging it is part of a "proxy war" waged against the country by foreign states.
A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 93 percent of respondents in Indonesia disagreed that "society should accept homosexuality."
Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is home to Islamist groups which have long called for the criminalization of gay sex.