BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Muslim activists in the Indonesian province of Aceh gathered on Friday to protest against the LGBT community.
Around 300 protesters, with women dressed in burqas separated from the male demonstrators, held banners denouncing homosexuality, chanted slogans such as “No place for LGBT in Aceh!,” and set fire to a stuffed toy effigy meant to represent members of the LGBT community.
The rally was attended by members of the House of Representatives from Aceh, including Nasir Jamil, who told protesters that he fully supported the action to deny the existence of the LGBT community in Aceh, an epa journalist reported.
“This is contrary to the implementation of Islamic Sharia in Aceh. We do not give space to the LGBT,” Jamil said.
The governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, was also present at the rally, where he signed a petition to ban the LGBT community in the province.
“LGBT is a violation in Aceh,” Irwandi told the crowd.
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and most practice a moderate form of the religion, with only the province of Aceh adhering to the strict Sharia code of Islamic law.
Human rights groups and NGOs have reported that gay and transgender people across Indonesia have increasingly become the targets of abuse and marginalization.
Human Rights Watch alleged last year that police had started to use an anti-pornography law to criminalize the entire LGBT community.
According to HRW, homophobic rhetoric by politicians and public functionaries has increased considerably since Jan. 2016, in many cases instigated by Islamist groups that oppose homosexuality in the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world.
Last month, two gay men were detained and remain in custody after they were arrested by police on charges of sharing pornography on social media.
Although Indonesian President Joko Widodo criticized discrimination against minorities in Oct. 2016, police interventions have continued.
Authorities carried out five more raids last year in the provinces of Aceh, eastern Java, Jakarta, northern Sumatra and western Java.
Homosexuality is legal across Indonesia – except for in Sharia law-ruled Aceh province – and though the LGBT community has yet to meet acceptance, it had been tolerated in the past.
However, in recent years members of this community have found themselves increasingly marginalized and even threatened by some authorities and hostile social trends.
A survey presented last week in Jakarta by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting found that 87.6 percent of Indonesians regard the LGBT community collective as a threat.