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Over 50 LGBT People Have Been Arrested in Both Egypt and Indonesia

Police officers stand guard at a gay sauna during a search for evidence in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Dozens of men, including several foreigners, were arrested in a raid on the sauna late Friday, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face increased hostility in the world's most-populous Muslim nation.
Tatan Syuflana/AP

In recent weeks, human rights groups have urged Egypt to stop targeting LGBT people in the north African country. But rather than ending the crackdown, the conservative Muslim nation appears to be ramping up what is being called its “widest anti-gay crackdown,” according to Reuters.

And across the Indian Ocean, Indonesia now appears to be taking a cue from Egypt’s crackdown. Last Friday, 58 men were arrested during a police raid on a “gay spa” in Jakarta.

Though neither country has explicit anti-gay laws, LGBT people in Egypt are often arrested and charged with “debauchery,” “immorality,” or “blasphemy” instead, the BBC reported, while Reuters reports that Indonesian authorities rely on pornography laws to arrest members of its LGBT community.

The sudden crackdowns stand in stark contrast to rapid progress on gay rights elsewhere in the world — Germany just legalized gay marriage; India’s Supreme Court recently recognized sexual orientation as a protected right; and Nepal this week celebrated its first legal wedding of a trans woman to another woman — and serve as a reminder that the global struggle for gay rights is still a long and dangerous one.

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In Indonesia, a police spokesperson has said that 51 of the men who were arrested will be released, assuming they are not carrying drugs or guilty of other crimes. However, seven of them men face up to 10 years in prison on charges of “pornography,” according to AP.

But in Egypt the crackdown — which began after fans raised rainbow flags during a concert last month — continues as the government has called for a targeted media blackout.

Read more: Fans Arrested at a Concert in Egypt After Raising Rainbow Flag

On Sept. 30, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, the government body responsible for media censorship, prohibited the “promotion or dissemination of homosexual slogans.” And forbade “homosexuals to appear in any media outlet whether written, audio or visual, except when they acknowledge their wrong conduct and repent for it.”

Up to 57 people have been arrested since Sept. 22, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and at least five of those arrested were subjected to forced anal exams, which Amnesty International says are tantamount to torture.

Many members of Egypt’s LGBT community have shut down their social media accounts for fear of being targeted by the police through their accounts, according to the Guardian. Law enforcement officers have also been using dating apps and other websites to entrap people they suspect of being gay or transgender, the New York Times reported.

Read more: Egypt Arrested 22 People in Just 4 Days in Anti-LGBT Crackdown

Human Rights Watch has called on Egypt to end the crackdown, saying “Repression will not turn gay people straight – it will only perpetuate fear and abuse.”

The crackdown comes as Egypt is being criticized by the international community for its human rights record. In Aug. the US announced a $100 million cut to its aid for Egypt, and said it would withhold $195 million more until the country improved its human rights record and took steps to increase democracy.