Indonesian police arrested 141 men Sunday evening for taking part in a gay sex party in the capital Jakarta. While homosexuality is not illegal in the country, the latest arrests point to a rising tide of discrimination and attacks on the LGBT community in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
The arrests took place at a sauna and gym venue in the north of the city following an event promoted as “The Wild One,” with police arresting attendees as well as performers and the venue owner.
According to a police spokesman, those arrested are likely to be charged under the state’s strict anti-pornography statute because, under these ambiguous laws, putting on a live strip show for the enjoyment of the public could be construed as “pornography.”
A police spokesman on Monday told Reuters that 10 men had already been charged and the rest detained for questioning.
“There were gay people who were caught strip-teasing and masturbating in the scene,” Jakarta police spokesman Raden Argo Yuwono told BBC Indonesian. The maximum penalty for violating Indonesia’s anti-pornography law is 15 years in jail.
“It’s been increasing for two years now,” Yulita Rustinawati, from the LGBT activist group Arus Pelangi, told the Guardian about intolerance toward the queer community. “It’s bad for democracy, for freedom of expression and freedom of association. We’re not sure what the government is trying to achieve. We are queer and we are not going away.”
The police have been criticized for releasing images of the arrested men without shirts to local news outlets, with one activist group calling it “extremely dangerous.”
The arrests came just two days before two men will publicly receive 85 lashes with the cane after their arrest in Banda Aceh in late March and conviction of sodomy under the province’s Sharia law.
Human Rights Watch last week called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to intervene and prevent the public lashings, saying the punishment constitutes torture under international law.
Earlier this month, police arrested 14 people in the city of Surabaya, also for allegedly holding a gay party in a hotel. The men could also face charges under anti-pornography laws and some were forced to undergo HIV tests with the police revealing that five of the men tested positive.