Gay couple arrested in Bandung for running LGBT Facebook page

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) -The West Java Police have arrested a man and his partner for allegedly running a Facebook page for the gay community in Bandung, West Java, in Indonesia's first case of criminalisation of homosexual hangouts on social media.

Police raided on Thursday (Oct 18) a house in Batununggal rented by the man, identified only as IS, who allegedly created the "Gay Bandung" page in October 2015.

They also confiscated five cellphones and 25 condoms.

"They connect and matchmake people who want to make same-sex friendships," the police's special crimes deputy director, Adjutant Chief Commander Hari Brata, said on Friday.

The Facebook group reportedly has 4,093 active followers of various ages, including teenagers.

A wave of anti-LGBT sentiment has swept across the conservative province of West Java, as public anxiety rises over LGBT groups on social media.

Another Facebook page for young gay people triggered controversy in Garut regency two weeks ago, triggering a call from school principals to ban LGBT students at schools.

The Cianjur regency administration issued a circular on Monday, instructing all subdistrict heads in the regency to ensure that sermons during Friday prayers discuss the so-called dangers of homosexuality as a lifestyle.

The instruction cited a report by the Aids Prevention Commission (KPA) of Cianjur which claimed that the number of LGBT people had risen significantly in the regency.

The Bandung case marked the first police crackdown on online LGBT groups, who usually keep a low profile in the largely conservative and religious society.

The suspects have been charged under Article 27, Point 1 of the Electronic Transactions and Information (ITE) Law on transmitting and spreading electronic information containing immorality. The law carries a maximum sentence of six years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of one billion rupiah (S$90,888).

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