The conviction of Reynhard Sinaga, an Indonesian man identified as Britain’s “most prolific rapist”, has prompted the mayor in his home city to raid housing areas of LGBT+ people to “prevent the spread of (LGBT+) behaviour”, prompting fears of a wider backlash.
Sinaga, 36, was convicted for sexually assaulting dozens of young men in Manchester, the British city where he was studying. The story has dominated headlines in Indonesia, where homosexuality is taboo.
Sinaga was found guilty of assaulting 48 men whom he drugged after taking them back to his apartment from outside bars and clubs in the city of Manchester.
The court ruled that he must serve at least 30 years in prison for 159 offences committed between between January 2015 and May 2017. The government prosecutor said he was the “most prolific rapist in British legal history”.
The city of Depok on Java Island, where his family lives, has ordered officials to step up raids in areas where LGBT+ people live.
“The increase in prevention efforts is to strengthen families’ resilience and in particular to protect the children,” mayor Mohammad Idris said in a statement on the city’s official website on Friday, January 10.
It said the mayor had expressed concern about the case and ordered the raids “so that similar things do not happen in the city of Depok”.
The mayor said LGBT+ behaviours were condemned both by society and by religious teachings in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
The mayor and local authorities could not be reached for further comment on Monday (Jan 13).
While there have not been major anti-LGBT+ backlashes since Sinaga’s news broke, campaigners feared his case will be used by religious hardliners to launch further crackdowns in Indonesia, where hostility towards LGBT+ people has been growing.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia, except in the ultra-conservative Islamic province of Aceh, but some religious groups have called for it to be banned. Many LGBT+ people are not open about their sexuality.
“What people need to differentiate is that this is a sex crime and it has nothing to do with his sexual orientation,” said Yuli Rustinawati, a founder of the Jakarta-based LGBT+ advocacy group Arus Pelangi.
“We fear that other cities will follow the action ordered by the mayor of Depok because there are a lot of misconceptions,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)