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In this Saturday, May 21, 2011, file photo, Indonesian gay activists hold posters during a protest demanding equality for LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia's top court on Thursday ruled against petitioners seeking to make gay sex and sex outside marriage illegal in a victory for the country's besieged LGBT minority.
AP Photo/Dita Alangkara
Citizenship

Indonesia’s High Court Strikes Down Attempt to Criminalize Gay Sex

For the past two years, being gay in Indonesia hasn’t been officially criminalized — except in one province. That hasn’t stopped the authorities from arresting 58 gay men at a sauna in October, banning gay dating apps, or caning two men for engaging in gay sex.   

But last week there was a slice of good news for Indonesia’s LGBTQ community. 

On Thursday, the country’s constitutional court narrowly defeated a petition that would have banned gay and extramarital sex in a win for LGBT rights, Voice of America reports

Five voted against the petition, which was presented to the court by the so-called Family Love Alliance in March of last year, and four voted for it. Despite the win, activists worry that the country’s parliament could still vote for similar legislation and human rights concerns remain as the country continues to crack down on the LGBTQ community through raids and rhetoric, according to the VOA report. 

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“I am relieved and feel so happy,” Lini Zurlia, a gay rights activist in Jakarta told VOA after the vote. “But I’m still worried about the next process at the legislative level.” 

Although no federal laws ban homosexuality, that hasn’t stopped the country from punishing people for being gay. 

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The same day as the court’s ruling, 10 men were sentenced to two years in prison for their involvement in a gay sex party at a sauna. The men were convicted of violating a 2008 anti-pornography law, which contains language about strip teases, the New York Times reports

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

Anti-gay sentiment didn’t always exist in Indonesia, CNN reported in May, but has escalated over the past two years. From Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu to the National Psychiatric Association, Indonesian leaders have publicly denounced homosexuality — going as far as to liken it to brainwashing

This rhetoric has been paired with an increase in raids of gay meeting points, such as spas and other private spaces, according to Human Rights Watch. 

“We thought at the time they were just trying to distract from corruption, but we were wrong. It kept rolling and getting bigger,” activist Yulita Rustinawati told The Guardian

A 2013 Pew Research study found that 93% of Indonesians do not believe society should accept homosexuality in Indonesia. This puts the country at odds with much of the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, such as the Philippines and Australia, which overwhelmingly support LGBTQ rights. 

Read More: These 6 Countries Execute People for Being Gay

Human Rights Watch has called on Indonesia to “make and enforce public pledges to protect all Indonesians from violence and discrimination.” 

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According to Reuters, the judge in Thursday’s decision said that the plaintiffs could still “submit their petition to lawmakers,” potentially setting up a legislative battle over the future of LGBTQ rights in the country in 2018.