by Heather Cassell
|Favorite way for Indonesia to dehumanize and punish men for being gay. Public caning so everyone knows and keeps away from you. GWB: Gays Without Borders|
F. Bernard Loesi, left, consul for information and public diplomacy affairs at the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco, talked to Ken Hodnett, right, during a Gays Without Borders protest May
LGBT demonstrators gathered outside of the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco May 31 to protest the caning of gay men in the Southeast Asian country.
It was reported last month that two gay men were each caned 83 times for having sex with each other. In Jakarta, 141 men were arrested recently for allegedly attending a gay sex party.
The arrests were the tipping point for local activists after more than a year of government crackdowns on the country's LGBT community.
"I think that the high number of anti-gay abuses demand it," Michael Petrelis, a gay activist, said of the protest.
Petrelis was the organizer of the Gays Without Borders demonstration outside the consulate.
Gays Without Borders member Bill Wilson (also a freelance photographer for the Bay Area Reporter), said that by demonstrating on behalf of Indonesia's LGBT community showed that they weren't alone that "someone outside is watching."
"Someone cares," he said.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign's international arm, and Human Rights Watch are among the groups that have been outraged by recent attacks on Indonesia's LGBT community. Representatives of the organizations have called on the U.S. government and leaders in Indonesia to stop the human rights abuses.
"To truly have freedom in the world, there has to be respect," said Wilson.
In a Facebook post, leading LGBT Indonesian activist Kisa Hartoyo of the Suara Kita organization, expressed his gratitude for Gays Without Borders, thanking members for taking action on behalf of LGBT Indonesians.
Representatives of the Indonesian Consulate came out to speak with the demonstrators.
The Aceh province, where the caning occurred, is the only region that enacts Sharia law, F. Bernard Loesi, consul for information and public diplomacy affairs, and Berhan Muqtadir, vice consul, at the Consulate General of Indonesia, told the demonstrators and the B.A.R. outside its North Beach office.
The consulate representatives said that the two men in question violated Indonesia's pornographic law by having public sex in a gym. They insisted it was an issue of the Aceh province and that gay men were left alone in Jakarta.
When the B.A.R. asked about the recent arrests of more than 140 men allegedly attending a private party in Jakarta, the consul representatives said they weren't aware of the incident and would look into it. However, they insisted that the men must have been in a public place.
"Trust us. If they don't break the law nothing will happen to them," said Loesi.
Not everyone in Indonesia agreed with the caning of the men, said the two Indonesian officials.
They explained that there are many conversations about LGBT rights and human rights happening right now in Indonesia, a country with the world's most populous Muslim community.
"There are many debates happening around accepting LGBT legal rights and protecting human rights," said Muqtadir.
Indonesia doesn't have laws specifically against or protecting its LGBT citizens, the men said. LGBT citizens are covered under the same laws as everyone else, they explained when the B.A.R. asked if the situation involved a man and a woman having public sex would they have been punished as these two men were.
Petrelis was happy that the representatives of the embassy came out to speak with the demonstrators and he looked forward to continuing the dialogue with Indonesian LGBT activists and government officials, he said.
Ireland elected its youngest prime minister and he's openly gay.
Leo Varadkar, 38, was elected leader of the ruling party, which sets him up to be confirmed as prime minister when the Irish Parliament reconvenes next week.
Varadkar is leader of the Fine Gael party and is the son of an Indian-born father and Irish mother.
Varadkar beat his opponent Simon Coveney in the contest to become Ireland's 14th Taoiseach (prime minister) after Enda Kenny announced his resignation last month.
"If my election as leader of Fine Gael today has shown anything, it is that prejudice has no hold on this republic," Varadkar said after his victory was announced in Dublin, reported the Global News.
Varadkar was born in Dublin in 1979. In 2015 he came out publicly in the run-up to the public vote to legalize same-sex marriage throughout Ireland.
Varadkar expressed interest in politics at a young age. He participated in the Washington-Ireland Program, a program for future political leaders, reported Vice. He became a doctor like his father, but was later elected as councilor in 2004. He's held several appointed positions, including minister for transport, tourism and sport, health minister, and minister of welfare, reported the BBC.
In 2007, he was elected to the Irish Parliament representing West Dublin.
The incoming prime minister will have a challenging road ahead as Ireland is still emerging from the global economic crisis of 2008. There are also the negotiations as Britain prepares to exit the European Union, of which Ireland is a member.
Varadkar told reporters, "I'm ready for those challenges, as are we as a party."