LGBTQ+ Indonesians Are Being Forced to Undergo Exorcisms as a ‘Cure’
"It's traumatizing — the horror of that memory stays in my head."
Forced exorcisms are harmful and common practice in Indonesia, where gay and transgender people are widely regarded as "sexual deviants."
While homosexuality is legal everywhere in the country, except in the semi-autonomous Aceh Province, many still hold the belief that LGBTQ+ people are possessed by evil spirits, which can be expelled through exorcisms and prayer.
"It's traumatizing — the horror of that memory stays in my head," 31-year-old Andin told AFP.
As a transgender woman in Indonesia, Andin has faced nearly two decades of abuse from her family and community due to her gender identity.
While she has endured being drenched with cold water and locked in a small room for days at a time as her family and imams shouted verses at her from the Quran, her exorcism is what scarred her the most.
Forcibly taken to a religious guru in Sumatra, Andin was given a burial shroud and told to either renounce her identity or go to hell.
"Nothing changed after the exorcism," she said. "I'm still LGBT, but my family didn't give up easily."
Forced exorcisms and other forms of conversion therapy are both harmful and ineffective, placing LGBTQ+ people at higher risk of suicide.
Under Indonesia’s proposed "family resilience" bill, exorcisms and other forms of conversion therapy would become mandatory for LGBTQ+ citizens.
If passed, gay and transgender people would be forced into rehabilitation centers, where they would undergo a series of religious-based treatments to rid themselves of their "deviancy."
The bill, which refers to LGBTQ+ people as a threat, also aims to ban homosexuality altogether.
"It feels like we are moving backward," Savitri Nurina, the media relations manager for Amnesty International Indonesia, told NBC News in March. "They're trying to make human rights violations official, and we cannot allow that."
Indonesia has a history of being openly hostile to gay and transgender citizens, however.
In January, the mayor of Depok ordered raids against the city’s LGBTQ+ community following the arrest of Reynhard Sinaga, an Indonesian student who was convicted of raping and assaulting dozens of men while in the UK.
At the time, Mayor Mohammad Idris claimed the purpose of the raids was to report signs of "LGBTQ activity" and prevent the spread of people identifying as queer.