Bogor Mayor Bima Arya (Photo: Ruht Semiyono)

Bogor Mayor Dropped from USAID Conference over Controversial City Law

BY :VENTO SAUDALE

MARCH 30, 2022

Bogor, West Java. The mayor of Bogor in West Java has been denied participation in a conference organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after it was learned that the city government has passed a law that calls transgender and gays “sexual deviation”.

Mayor Bima Arya is due to speak at the Indonesia Civil Society Forum discussing inclusive democracy in Jakarta on Thursday.

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But the organizers decided to cancel the invitation after they were alerted about the city ordinance on “Prevention and Countering of Sexual Deviation” issued recently by the Bogor government.

Article six of the ordinance singles out homosexuality and transgender as sexual deviation and could potentially discriminate against people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.

“We have recently become aware of Bogor ordinance number 10/2022 entitled Prevention and Countering of Sexual Deviance. A review of the ordinance indicates an effort to empower a variety of actors to oppress individual choice and rights and utilizes outdated conceptions of “correctness” as justification to rescind personal liberties,” USAID Indonesia Mission Director Jeffery Cohen said in a letter to the mayor.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Beritasatu, said the wording of the ordinance “presents a significant obstacle to all Indonesians’ ability to realize their aspirations”.

“Having a government official involved in the passage of an ordinance that is contrary to our values of inclusion, tolerance, and opportunity speak at a conference to advance inclusive democracy in Indonesia, would send a message that contradicts the United States’ core principles on diversity and human rights,” Cohen wrote. 

“Therefore, we are unable to support your participation in the 2022 Indonesian Civil Society Forum.”

Co-organizer MADANI, a non-profit development organization, also sent a separate letter to Bima notifying his cancellation as a panelist at the conference.

Hans Antlov, a representative with MADANI, said the ordinance stands in stark contrast to US government principles “that all people are equal under the law no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation and that every person should be able to live without fear”. 

“We must therefore rescind our invitation to you as a panelist at the upcoming Indonesia Civil Society Forum on March 31, 2022,” he wrote.

Bima said he was disappointed by the cancellation with no opportunity to clarify the issue.

“The USAID abruptly and unilaterally rescinded [the invitation] without giving me an opportunity to provide explanation and clarification,” Bima said in Bogor.

The mayor added that he received the invitation last month with great enthusiasm because it would allow him “to share experience in uneasy efforts to build Bogor into an inclusive and tolerant city”.

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