Indonesia's crackdown on LGBT people fuels HIV crisis, report says

CNN/ Newswire | 7/2/2018, 11:45 a.m.
A crackdown against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Indonesia is leading to a rise in HIV infections and ...

"The suspicion of any neighbor that we are gay can put us in real danger," said Panuta, an HIV outreach worker in Jakarta who was interviewed by Human Rights Watch for the report. "Whenever a group of my friends gets together now, we're afraid of neighbors snooping and calling the religious groups or the police and saying we are having a sex party -- even if we are not."

And to further complicate matters, condoms are now used as evidence of purported crimes, such as prostitution, which hamstring HIV prevention initiatives, according to the report. Many organizations fearing police reprisal no longer store condoms, according to Harsono.

The report is based in part on 48 in-depth interviews conducted in 2017 with victims, witnesses, activists, and health workers. The interviews were in Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra

While Indonesia is a Muslim country, only a few small areas of the country follow strict Muslim law. Not that long ago, being LGBT in Indonesia was widely tolerated.

However, the recent political changes have undermined fundamental human rights and increased the risk of a public health crisis, according to the report.

"Groups cannot track or see who has HIV. Facilities [for prevention and treatment] are disappearing. We going back to the 1990s in terms of HIV prevention programs, back to square one," said Harsono.