by Rex Wockner
International News Briefs
Police in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, forced the cancellation of the fourth Asian regional conference of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the group said March 26.
Officials refused to issue a permit for the three-day event in order to protect “public order” and prevent a “social crisis” after dozens of Muslim groups expressed anger over the gathering.
On March 25, hundreds of Muslim university students rallied at the Surabaya City Council building in opposition to the conference.
A spokesman called on police to “ban and stop any homosexual-related activity in Surabaya,” according to the Antara news agency.
The chairman of Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, Ifdhal Kasim, denounced the ban, telling the Jakarta Post, “Holding a conference is a form of freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the Constitution.”
“There should be affirmative action for the minorities,” he said. “There is no regulation banning LGBTs from convening in the country.”
More than 150 activists from 16 nations were scheduled to attend the March 26-28 conclave hosted by the Indonesian LGBT organization Gaya Nusantara.
Participants who already had arrived in Surabaya decided to go ahead and hold informal talks anyway.
But on March 26, large groups of Muslim fundamentalists invaded the conferees’ hotels intent on chasing the homosexuals away. The conference participants were subsequently evacuated and transferred to safer places.
The Mercure Surabaya hotel said it would refund ILGA’s deposits.
Previous ILGA-Asia confabs have been held in Mumbai, India; Cebu, Philippines; and Chiang Mai, Thailand.
ILGA is a federation of hundreds of LGBT and related organizations from every part of the world.