Indonesian rightists try to stop LGBT film festival

[The following is a slightly abridged version of a statement issued by the Perempuan Mahardhika (Free Women) National Network on September 28.]

The attacks by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) against the two-week International Q! Film Festival which opened in Jakarta on September 24 is a violation of basic human rights and threatens democracy in Indonesia.

Since the process of reformasi or political reform that began in 1998, the upholding of democracy in Indonesia has continued to be pushed back. The right to organise, freedom of expression and opinion and the freedom of worship are increasingly coming under threat from reactionary civilian militia groups acting in the name of “eradicating immorality”. Restrictions on the freedom of sexual orientation in society through the construction of the normalisation of heterosexuality have explicitly emasculated the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which are a part of society whose rights must be acknowledged.

Repression by the reactionary civilian militia, and particularly that carried out by the FPI against the Q! Film Festival in Jakarta represents a serious threat to democracy in Indonesia. The Indonesian government under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Budiono has failed to safeguard the democratic process in Indonesia. To this day, there has not been a single government policy declaring its support for the LGBT community, and through its inaction the government has given its approval to the repressive actions carried out by the FPI against LGBT people. The government’s disregard of the violent acts by the FPI implicitly legitimises the reactionary civilian militia to continue to tarnish Indonesia’s democracy.

The statement by Information and Communication Minister Tifatul Sembiring from the Islamic-based Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) following the attacks against the Q! Film Festival, in which he refused to support the festival and explicitly stated that it is an artistic and cultural event that is not in line with Islamic principles and social ethics, was a cowardly act that has contributed to the widespread violence committed by the reactionary civilian militia. Because of this, we therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of violence committed by the government and the reactionary civilian militia that threaten the LGBT community and state the following (1) We condemn the repressive acts committed by the FPI against the Q! Film Festival; (2) We condemn the government (Yudhoyono and the political elite) for failing to provide protection to LGBT people and allowing the FPI’s violent acts to continue; (3) The statement by the communications and information minister is that of a cowardly government discharging its responsibility for upholding democracy in Indonesia; (4) We call on the democratic movement to join together to fight all threats against Indonesia’s democracy; (5) We call on the women’s movement and individual women to unite as a force and fight all forms of discrimination; (6) We demand an acknowledgement of LGBT people’s rights.