Same-sex practices in Aceh traditionally were not seen in contradiction with local customs (adat) and religion. It is ironic that in Aceh today, homophobic political and religious officials voice opinions that would be more intelligible to the condescending Dutch colonizers than to Aceh’s elite circles a century ago.
The Criminal Code may yet be revised so that human rights like freedom of expression and association are better protected. But this requires the mobilisation of civil society in a way that has not been seen since General Suharto was ousted in 1998. It seems more likely that the pace of Islamization of the country has only faced a temporary setback.
It is high time the human rights movement lives up to the foundational motto of the Indonesian state, unity in diversity. To influence in this rough political climate, they need to strengthen civil society – by building coalitions based on affinity.
Jokowi was accused of being a crypto communist. Prabowo of harbouring the wish to establish a caliphate. Thus the election results can be seen as an indication of how the nation defines its soul.
The presidential elections of 17 April in Indonesia are a rematch of the 2014 encounter. The same two candidates, Mr Joko Widodo and his adversary, retired general Prabowo Subianto, are again vying for the highest political position in the country.
In Indonesia, simultaneous campaigns of communist phobia and of homophobia portray both groups as enemies of the nation and condemn both for treacherously undermining the state’s morality and weakening its vigilance.