August 26, 2016 at 12:11 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
US-backed Indonesian group supports anti-LGBT crackdown

Indonesia, gay news, Washington Blade

An affiliate of Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesian group that supports a crackdown on LGBT rights in the country, has received a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to fight tuberculosis.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has given a multimillion-dollar grant to an Indonesian organization that supports the country’s LGBT rights crackdown.

Lembaya Kesehatan Nahdlatul Ulama, which is part of Nahdlatul Ulama, received $2.6 million from USAID in order to increase its ability to detect tuberculosis cases and treat them. The grant began in 2012 and will continue through 2017.

A USAID official told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that Indonesia has the world’s second highest rate of tuberculosis with roughly a million cases each year. The official pointed out more than 270 people a day die from the disease and there is a new case every 30 seconds in the country.

“USAID partners with governments, civil society organizations, private sector companies, community and religious leaders, and academics to help Indonesia stop the spread of infectious diseases that respect no borders, such as tuberculosis,” a USAID official told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

Organization opposes ‘LGBT normalization’

Nahdlatul Ulama was founded in the city of Surabaya in 1926 to counter the growing influence of conservative Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia. It is the world’s largest Muslim organization with more than 40 million members.

Nahdlatul Ulama operates schools and hospitals throughout Indonesia. The organization has also launched campaigns to combat poverty and Muslim extremism in the country.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s board of directors published a document on Feb. 22 that urges the Indonesian government to take “immediate measures to stop all propaganda against LGBT normalization and deviant activities” and “ban parties campaigning for LGBT” rights.

The document calls upon Indonesians, non-government organizations and LGBT activists “who have been undertaking LGBT normality propaganda to allow rehabilitation and to campaign for the halt of activities.” Nahdlatul Ulama’s board of directors also urges Indonesian lawmakers to pass, among other things, a law that provides “rehabilitation for every person with LGBT tendencies to return to normal.”

“The tendencies of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) are a form of perversion and the practice of LGBT is a desecration of human dignity,” reads the document.

Lembaya Kesehatan Nahdlatul Ulama’s board of directors said in a March 5 letter they “submit and obey the attitudes and decisions of” Nahdlatul Ulama, “including the related attitude, which states that LGBT constitutes a behavior that denies human nature.”

The letter acknowledges the Global Fund supports their HIV prevention efforts.

“LKNU does not make any and or engage in campaign agendas and propaganda to fight for the recognition of LGBT existence,” it reads. “LKNU asked all parties not to politicize and take advantage of cooperation built by LKNU for particular interests, apart from health interests.”

The Indonesian government over the last year has sought to crackdown on LGBT rights.

A commission in the Indonesian House of Representatives on March 3 urged the country’s Ministry of Communications and information to consider a bill that sought to block websites promoting so-called LGBT propaganda. BuzzFeed reported a hearing in a lawsuit that seeks to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country took place at the Constitutional Court of Indonesia on Tuesday.

A report that Human Rights Watch released earlier this month notes Indonesian authorities shut down an Islamic school for trans people in the city of Yogyakarta in February.

The Jakarta Post reported authorities banned any religious activities at the school, which had Nahdlatul Ulama’s approval, because they threatened “public order.” The newspaper said administrators agreed to close the school after they met with local authorities and representatives of the Yogyakarta Islamic Jihad Front, a local militant Islamist group.

“The NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) is an extremely influential organization in Indonesia — representing a guiding force not only in religious spaces, but in civil society activism, socioeconomic development, and policymaking,” Kyle Knight, a researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, told the Blade on Thursday. “The international community is right to recognize the NU’s breadth of influence and, as a result, support their work. However the NU central board statement of February 22 and the subsequent NU health institute board statement of March 5 — both of which call for the criminalization of ‘LGBT behaviors’ — betray the organization’s unique platform from which it has traditionally disseminated an ideology of tolerance and social justice.”

“USAID, as one of NU’s partners, should strongly reiterate its commitment to human rights and nondiscrimination and ensure that its implementing partners similarly implement programs without discrimination including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” he added.

The USAID official with whom the Blade spoke said the agency “works to promote respect for the human rights of persons around the world.”

“In a democracy, it is incumbent upon us all to protect and provide equal rights to all the minority groups that are represented in our society including the LGBTI community,” said the official. “Greater protection of human rights leads to greater stability, prosperity, tolerance, and inclusivity. Indonesia is a country that prides itself on its diversity and tolerance, and we encourage Indonesia, as we do all of our democratic partners, to provide equal rights and protection to all citizens.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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