JAKARTA • Police in Indonesia's most populous province plan to deploy a taskforce to investigate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activity, a move likely to fuel concerns of a widening crackdown on the community in the Muslim-majority country.
West Java police chief Anton Charliyan disclosed the plan on Tuesday as two gay men in the province of Aceh were publicly flogged, and days after police raided a gay club in Jakarta and distributed photos of suspects in varying states of undress to the media.
With the exception of Aceh, homosexuality is legal in Indonesia. Activists say, however, that police targeting of consensual gay sex has shone a light on discrimination and harassment in the world's third-largest democracy.
Indonesia's reputation for tolerance is already under scrutiny after Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, was sentenced this month to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Responding to Sunday's Jakarta raid, Mr Charliyan told reporters in Bandung, the capital of West Java, which has a population of about 47 million, that LGBT people suffered a "disease of the body and soul".
He called on the public to report their activities. "I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition," Mr Charliyan said. "If there's anyone following it, he will face the law and heavy social sanctions. He will not be accepted in society."
A leading LGBT activist slammed his remarks. "Police have a mandate to follow the law. They are not the morals police," said Ms Yuli Rustinawati, chairman of Arus Pelangi, an Indonesian LGBT activist organisation. She added that the release of suspects' images was part of a police pattern of publicly shaming gay people.
In remarks yesterday, Mr Charliyan said the police "taskforce" would include intelligence specialists and was particularly concerned with disrupting "secret parties", the Detik news portal reported.
A national spokesman for the police Setyo Wasisto said the approach in West Java did not reflect a national strategy.
Mr Charliyan's comments follow a spate of high-profile police actions against gay clubs and parties, as the country's Constitutional Court is due to rule on a petition to outlaw homosexuality and adultery.