Politics

British ambassador summoned by Indonesia because of an LGBT+ flag

Indonesia expressed its “disappointment” to the U.K. ambassador in Jakarta after the embassy raised the rainbow flag to support LGBT+ rights.

UK embassy of Indonesia rainbow flag
Photo shared by the U.K. embassy in Indonesia showing the rainbow flag flying next to the Union Jack for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia | Instagram, ukinindonesia

The ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia has summoned the British Ambassador to Indonesia, Owen Jenkins, because of a rainbow flag raised in the premises of the embassy of the United Kingdom in Jakarta.

In a statement released on May 23, the ministry expressed its “concern and disappointment regarding raising the LGBT+ flag” and “regards this action as highly insensitive”.

The ministry requested that friendly countries in Indonesia “respect the Indonesian people’s religious, social, and cultural norms and beliefs”.

The British embassy in Jakarta posted on its Instagram account the picture of the rainbow flag flying next to the Union Jack on May 17 for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

The post says that “sometimes it is important to take a stand for what you think is right, even if disagreement between friends can be uncomfortable,” emphasizing that the “U.K. holds that LGBT+ rights are fundamental human rights.”

With 83,000 followers, the ukinindonesia account can receive a thousand likes and few dozen comments on its posts. But the post with the rainbow flag spurred more reactions, accumulating more than 5,000 likes and receiving more than 10,000 comments, which included praises of the gesture and criticism asking to respect Indonesian culture in the country.

The IDAHOBIT was set on May 17 to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The date is officially recognized by more than 130 countries in the world but it is not an official international day recognized by the United Nations although its secretary general said on May 17 that the U.N. “is proud to support and uphold the fundamental human rights and dignity of all people – including LGBTIQ+ people.” Some events are held in Indonesia during that day.

Homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, except in the northern province of Aceh which practices Sharia officially, and in the city of Palembang in South Sumatra. Same-sex marriages are not recognized but changing gender is legal. Equaldex, a website that compares the progress of LGBTQ+ rights across the world, shows an equality index of 40 out of 100, where legal rights are above average.

But public opinion is largely against LGBT rights with a score of 19 out of 100. A Pew Research center poll in 2019 showed that 80% of the Indonesian population thinks society should not accept homosexuality, down from 93% in 2013. LGBT people are regularly subjected to discrimination and violence, according to Human Dignity Trust.

According to Indonesia, the British ambassador noted the government protest and would convey it to the British government in London. The U.K. embassy didn’t communicate on official portals and platforms.

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