jakarta police raid gay sex party
Police: 141 men detained during sex party raid
00:49 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

In less than 18 months, being gay in Indonesia has gone from widely tolerated to just plain dangerous.

An unprecedented wave of police raids, vigilante attacks, and calls for the criminalization of homosexual sex have left many in the country’s LGBT community fearing for their safety.

“(Gay Indonesians) are exhausted and they’re horrified,” Kyle Knight, a Human Rights Watch researcher with the LGBT rights program, told CNN.

“Even the activists I know who started the very first organizations in the 1980s say they’ve never seen anything like this.”

It’s a dark turn for a country that for decades prided itself on its diverse, heterogeneous society.

The world’s largest Muslim democracy, Indonesia is often considered something of a bulwark of tolerance amid growing conservatism elsewhere in the Islamic world.

But that perception is now shifting, amid increasing verbal attacks on minority groups and the growing implementation of Islamic bylaws by regional governments.

In less than two weeks, two young men were seized by vigilantes who burst into their home in Aceh province, then taken to authorities who caned them for having homosexual sex.

In a separate incident, later in the month, attendees at an alleged gay party in a Jakarta sauna were arrested and images of their faces were disseminated online by Indonesian police.

Homosexual sex is not illegal in the majority of Indonesia, except in the extremely conservative province of Aceh. Jakarta is not part of any province; it is controlled by the central government.

One week ago, West Java Police Chief Anton Charliyan announced that he would create a special taskforce to crack down on LGBT people.

“They will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted by society,” he said.

Homosexuality tolerated, not accepted