British embassy sparks fury by raising LGBT rainbow flag in Indonesia: UK is accused of ‘sullying country’s sacred values’ as ambassador is summoned for an explanation in Jakarta

  • Jakarta called on foreign envoys to respect local sensitivities following backlash
  • Gay sex is legal in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, except in Aceh
  • Same-sex relationships in the province can result in public flogging under law
  • The embassy posted a picture on Instagram of a rainbow flag on its premises 

Indonesia summoned Britain’s ambassador on Monday to explain the raising of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) flag at its embassy.  

Jakarta called on foreign envoys to respect local sensitivities in a country where same-sex relationships remain taboo.

Gay sex is legal in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, except in one province, Aceh, where same-sex relationships are illegal and can result in public flogging under local Islamic law.

There is widespread discrimination against the LGBTQ community and some gay Indonesians have been arrested under an anti-pornography law.

The embassy last week posted a picture on Instagram of a rainbow flag on its premises to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. It was accompanied by a message of support for LGBTQ rights.

The embassy last week posted a picture (above) on Instagram of a rainbow flag on its premises to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

A backlash ensued among conservative Indonesians online in response to the social media post.

Alumni 212 Brotherhood, an influential conservative Islamic movement, in a statement said the flag sullied the ‘sacred values of Indonesia’. 

On Monday, Jakarta’s foreign ministry summoned British ambassador Owen Jenkins to explain.

‘The action, along with the publication (of the picture) through the official social media account of the British embassy, is highly insensitive,’ said ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah on Monday.

On Monday, Jakarta’s foreign ministry summoned British ambassador Owen Jenkins (pictured) to explain

‘The ministry would like to remind foreign envoys to respect the sensitivity of cultural and religious values,’ he added.

Influential conservatives had chastised the embassy for flying the rainbow flag alongside the UK’s Union Flag.

The chairman of Indonesia’s top Islamic scholars body, the Indonesian Ulema Council, said the diplomatic mission was disrespectful for openly supporting LGBTQ rights.

‘We must reprimand them that as a guest, one must know their place and understand the norms in the country where they’re at,’ Cholil Nafis wrote to his 68,000 Twitter followers on Saturday.

Though tolerated elsewhere in the country, the LGBTQ community has faced growing pressure on their rights and freedoms.

Influential conservatives had chastised the embassy (pictured) for flying the rainbow flag alongside the UK’s Union Flag

Islamists and conservative lawmakers have tried to criminalise same-sex relationships and openly gay people often face discrimination.

Conversion therapy including exorcism to ‘cure’ homosexuality is still common and gay sex is prohibited in the military.

A 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center also showed that 80 per cent of Indonesians believe homosexuality ‘should not be accepted by society’.

Last week, Indonesia’s chief security minister said a revision of the criminal code being deliberated by parliament included some articles aimed at the LGBT community, a move backed by some conservative lawmakers.

His remarks followed a backlash over a popular podcast that was forced to scrap an episode this month in which a gay couple was interviewed.

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