The VICE Guide to Writing an Op-Ed About Indonesia's LGBTQ Community

The opinion piece that House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo wrote earlier this week has major flaws. We fixed them.

by Syarafina Vidyadhana
07 February 2018, 1:22pm

Photo of Bambang Soesatyo via Wikimedia Commons/ domain; LGBT flag via Flickr account Ludovic Bertron/CC 2.0

We already knew that Bambang Soesatyo, the man who replaced Setya Novato as the speaker of the House, was no a fan of the Indonesia’s LGBTQ community. But he took his homophobic views to a whole new level in an opinion piece published by the local newspaper Koran Sindo this week.

The whole thing is chock full of ridiculous arguments—like how the "excesses of the LGBTQ lifestyle," have caused serial murders. Yeah. We don't know what he is talking about either. Other parts are equally confusing, like when Bambang said that the LGBTQ community was responsible for a rise in violence against children.

Now it's already bad enough to have a bunch of totally false and bigoted views about an entire group of people. But it's even worse to try to use these false statements to rally support for new measures inside the revised Criminal Code that would "focus on controlling the lifestyle of the LGBTQ community."

Now we don't really know why this Op-Ed got so much wrong. Maybe Bambang didn't have as much time to do his research as he should've. Maybe it was written by a ghostwriter, because, after all, the speaker of the House is surely a busy man. Whatever the reason, we decided to fill in some of the blank spaces and correct some of the errors to help them out, because no one wants our public figures spitting out false information, now do we?

Here's our attempt to correct the record, so that in the future no one makes the same mistakes again.


What Bambang wrote: “Consequently, the public sees and senses that the LGBT community is now not only free to express their lifestyle, but also free to conduct actions that may indicate crime.”

What you need to know: Two paragraphs after that sentence, Bambang mentions four men who were involved in homicide cases: Very Idam Henyansyah, who mutilated 11 people; Mujianto, who poisoned 15 people, killing four; Badrun, who killed one person; and Deni, who killed one person. What do the four of them have in common? They all happen to be gay.

Here's what's wrong with this argument. There's zero information about all the murders committed by straight people—and there are plenty of those too. I can easily name some of the so-called “horror” murder cases done by straight people without even doing any research. But I know better than to make a connection between someone's sexual orientation and their proclivity towards crime, because the two have nothing to do with each other.

Naila Rizqi Zakiah, a public defender at LBH Masyarakat, agrees. “It seems that a lot people still can’t differentiate between behavior and identity," Naila said. "For example, if a Muslim commits a murder against a Christian, we can’t just assume that it's because of the 'excess of Islam.' We certainly can’t conclude that all Muslims are murderers. This is just a logical fallacy. A murder can be committed by anyone, and it has nothing to do with someone’s identity."


What Bambang wrote: “In 2017, The Indonesian Child Protection Agency (LPAI) reported that the issue of LGBT or sexual violence has become the second biggest threat to children. In 2017, there were 28 cases of violence against children; 17 cases of sexual violence; nine cases of physical violence and two cases of psychological abuse. LPAI argued that sexual inappropriateness towards children can result in the confusion of a child’s sexual orientation."

What you need to know: There’s no scientific research proving that gender identity or sexual orientation has anything to do with predatory behavior towards young children. The US anti-hate watchdog group Southern Poverty Law Center released a statement saying the same thing. Still not convinced? How about a series of studies conducted by UC Davis professor Gregory Herek that determined that there was zero evidence that gay men had higher rates of abusing children than straight ones.

Then there's the work of A. Nicholas Groth, a pioneer in the field of sexual violence against children, who said that there were two kinds of child molesters: fixated and regressive. The fixated ones are attracted to children only, regardless of their gender. The second type, regressive, are usually sexually attracted to adult, but may target children in certain circumstances.

Groth also found that the majority of child molesters were involved in heterosexual relationships with other adults at the time of their arrest. That's because 90 percent of child abusers go after kids in their own families, and the majority of them are married, heterosexual men, according to the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute.

FYI: The Indonesian Child Protection Agency (LPAI) report cited in Bambang's report couldn't be found online. I also couldn't even find their website or any contact information. And don't let the official sounding name fool you. The LPAI is not a government body. That's the Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia or KPAI. The KPAI is a government agency under the Ministry of Social Affairs. The LPAI is a private organization run by Kak Seto.


What Bambang wrote: “The LGBT community shouldn't worry, since the proposed revision of Criminal Code will still be based on the principles of human rights. This means, those who fall under the LGBT umbrella, or someone with a different sexual orientation, will not be automatically criminalized, as long as they don’t express it publicly. Since LGBT and deviant sexual orientation are, in principle, something that can be cured. Another factor that needs to be taken into account by the LGBT community is the public’s growing resistance against such behavior.”

What you need to know: First off, the acronym LGBTQ represents sexual orientations and gender identities, not illnesses. So it isn't something that needs to be cured—or even can be cured. Instead of just repeating the same old arguments about this, let’s read this statement by American Psychiatric Association, which was written in response to the Indonesian Psychiatric Association's decision to classify an attract to the same sex as a mental illness.

The prevailing opinion within the scientific community is that there is a strong biological component to sexual orientation, and that it can be influenced by the interaction of genetic, hormonal and environmental factors. In short, there is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation, be it heterosexual, homosexual or otherwise, is a freewill choice.

Now, what does he mean by saying that the proposed revision of the Criminal Code—which will criminalize LGBTQ people—is “based on the principles of human rights”? It that supposed to be a joke or am I missing something?

Naila, the public defender, was confused too.

"How can it possibly uphold the principles of human rights when it's formulated to criminalize a certain group of society due to their sexual orientation or gender expression?” she said. “The most basic principle of human rights is non-discrimination. If we want to be firm and consistent to the principles of human rights, then we need to stop the hate, refrain from committing violence, or discrimination, and guarantee their safety."

Naila also added that “expressing” identity or gender in public space is a form of freedom that needs to be respected and protected. Telling people they will be fine as long as they don't publicly express themselves is, itself, a violation of human rights.

And don't forget that those police raids targeting the LGBTQ community are usually in private spaces. Take the arrests of 14 gay men in Surabaya—they were in a hotel room at the time. And what about instances when the police raid kost, hotel rooms, and houses whose owners were “a lesbian couple?" If the inside of hotel rooms, kosts, and your own house aren't private spaces, than where is?


See, we're not just here to criticize someone. We're trying to help.

What Bambang wrote: “Since it’s hard to find a mate, LGBTQ community often targets and traps teenagers and kids.

"In 2012, the Ministry of Health published data showing that there were 1,095,970 gay men. The growth rate of this type of man is through the roof. Since last year, it's estimated that the population of gay people make up about 3 percent of Indonesian total population, or about 7 million people. If these people actively promote their lifestyle, that’s a concerning issue.”

Conclusion: If Bambang thinks that the reason LGBTQ community “targets and traps teenagers and kids” (which is a baseless assumption) is because of a shortage in LGBTQ people, then shouldn't an "excess of LGBTQ" be a good thing?

But, OK, let’s get serious here.

The real conclusion: Straight Indonesians, including Bambang, shouldn’t lose so much sleep over thinking about the LGBTQ community. But maybe Bambang wasn't losing much sleep thinking about LGBTQ people at all. Maybe he was trying to court the conservative vote. And if that's the case, then I guess there's not much we can do here. Op-Eds like this play to a base, and that base doesn't care if any of this is correct as long as it reinforces their inherent biases.