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Organisers of a Southeast Asian LGBTQ+ event in Indonesia have been forced to cancel the gathering due to security threats, highlighting the community’s mounting challenges as religious groups exert increasing influence in the country.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, views homosexuality as a taboo subject, although it is not illegal except in the Sharia-ruled Aceh province.

Previous LGBTQ+-related events in Indonesia have faced cancellations following objections from Islamic groups. In a similar incident, the United States called off a visit by its LGBTQ+ special envoy in December after facing opposition from a prominent clerical body.

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The capital city, Jakarta, was initially scheduled to host the ‘ASEAN Queer Advocacy Week’ from July 17, bringing together activists from across Southeast Asia to discuss advocacy and address common challenges. The event was a collaboration between the Philippines-based rights group ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Indonesia-based Arus Pelangi, and other activists.

However, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus announced that the event had been relocated outside Indonesia to ensure the safety of participants and organisers in the wake of a series of security threats from various groups. The decision was made in light of a surge in “anti-LGBT sentiments” on social media, further contributing to concerns about the safety of the event.

The organisers have chosen not to disclose the new venue for security reasons.

The event has attracted attention as Indonesia is currently hosting a regional meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers, prompting speculation from anti-LGBTQ+ groups about a possible link between the LGBT event and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathering. However, Indonesia’s foreign ministry clarified that the LGBTQ+ event is entirely unrelated to the regional bloc’s meeting.

The LGBTQ+ event faced online condemnation and criticism from Islamic groups. Anwar Abbas, a representative of the Indonesian Ulema Council, a powerful Islamic clerical body, stated that the government should not grant permits for events that contradict religious values in Indonesia. The council warned the government against allowing such events to take place.

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