Understanding the LGBT Rights Movement in Indonesia

Understanding the LGBT Rights Movement in Indonesia

By guest contributors Harsh Mahaseth* and Ishita Goel*   Although homosexuality is legal in most parts of Indonesia, it is widely believed that the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia is anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), with government officials making the four-letter acronym a toxic symbol. In November, Indonesian police arrested Millen Cyrus, a trans-woman Instagram influencer, for alleged drug possession. Police placed her in a male detention cell at the Tanjung Priok Port Police Station, a move that received criticism from Indonesians and the international community. Millen Cyrus was arrested on November 22, 2020, after police raided her hotel room and discovered 0.36 grams of crystal methamphetamine in her possession. Police revealed later that Cyrus had been placed in a male detention cell because her I.D card identified her as a male. She was moved to a special cell following public outrage, not because police realised their mistake. They removed her from the male detention cell in order to “stifle anger,”...
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President Biden’s Promise to End Gay Conversion Therapy

President Biden’s Promise to End Gay Conversion Therapy

By: Guest Contributor Isidora Roskic, MA candidate in the Human Rights Studies program at Columbia University.  With the 2020 election results finalized, the Biden-Harris administration could bring promising advancements for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. While Trump’s Republican platform was once referred to as one of the “worst platforms in terms of LGBT issues,” President Biden’s policy proposals hold great prospect for real change. According to his Plan to Advance LGBTQ+ Equality in America and Around the World, banning so-called “conversion therapy” presently stands as one of the government’s top priorities. Gay conversion therapy (GCT), otherwise referred to as “reparative therapy,” is the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to alter one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through spiritual, psychological and/or physical intervention.  Experimental “treatments” include lobotomies, testicular tissue transplants, chemical castration, and aversive conditioning: application of electric shock to hands/genitals, and administration of nausea-inducing drugs during the presentation of homoerotic stimuli. Conversion therapy survivor, Sam Brinton, opened up about the horrors of undergoing...
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Freedom of Expression Under Threat

Freedom of Expression Under Threat

By Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch Invisibility and stigma go hand in hand. "Coming out" became a central part of the gay liberation movement in the United States and Europe from the 1960s, a strategy adopted as a prerequisite for claiming rights. And in the late 1980s, in response to the AIDS crisis, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) adopted the slogan "Silence=Death," which became the rallying cry of a movement challenging silence and stigma. Globally, in the past three decades, there has been a rapid increase in queer visibility, facilitated by many factors including images and ideas circulating through the internet, interconnectedness among LGBT organizations and individuals, and the global response to HIV/AIDS.  As of 2017, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has 1,228 member organizations in 132 countries. Yet visibility also comes with risks. As the visibility of sexual and gender minorities has increased, so too...
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On Being LGBT in West Africa

On Being LGBT in West Africa

By Philip Rodenbough, doctoral candidate in chemistry at Columbia University.  Twitter: @prodenbough ___________________________________________________________________________ The Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) is a program organized by the US Department of State through which students work part time on a project under the direction of a mentor at State, USAID, embassies abroad, or other government agencies. The e-internship is completed entirely online, so anyone can participate from anywhere. During the previous academic year, VSFS offered over 300+ positions to students, many of which were human rights related projects. Through VSFS, I was fortunate to participate in an independent research project on the LGBT experience in West Africa, with the guidance of a USAID mentor. Throughout the 2013-14 academic year, I researched country conditions, collected media reports, conducted interviews, and authored original detailed descriptions on the LGBT experience in West Africa. This research was developed to to help form baseline data that informs on the needs of the local LGBT communities, in addition to assessing the impact...
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