A mayor in West Java, Indonesia, has been criticized by human rights activists for using the imprisonment of a gay, serial rapist in the UK to harass local LGBTQ people.
Last week, Reynhard Sinaga, 36, was sentenced in Manchester, England, to life in prison for raping 48 men. Police believe he may have assaulted up to 195 men or more but have not been able to identify at least 70 of his victims.
Sinaga was a mature doctoral student from Indonesia. He relocated to the UK for his studies in 2007. During his trial and subsequent media coverage, a picture emerged of a serial predator who took particular pleasure in drugging and raping straight men.
Sinaga came from a wealthy Indonesian family. It’s believed part of his motivation for moving abroad to study was because of the anti-LGBTQ atmosphere in Indonesia, where being gay is taboo.
One of the PhD thesis Sinaga wrote as a student was entitled, “Sexuality and everyday transnationalism. South Asian gay and bisexual men in Manchester.”
In Manchester, he worked briefly in a gay bar but primarily lived off money sent to him by his family. Since news of his trial broke, one man has spoken to the press about meeting Sinaga on a Tinder date but leaving early because he found him “weird.”
Last week, British police said Sinaga was the most prolific rapist to ever face justice in the British courts – and possibly the world.
The case has been widely reported upon in Indonesia. Homosexuality is not illegal in most parts of the Muslim-majority country, except for the Aceh region. However, it is widely regarded as taboo and LGBTQ people have no legal protections.
Now, according to a statement posted last week, the mayor of Depok in West Java – Sinaga’s home town – plans to enlist public order officers to raid residences of members of the LGBT community. Mayor Mohammad Idris calls his crackdown “prevention toward the spread of LGBTI”.
He goes on to say the town will establish a rehabilitative center to assist “victims” in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
The statement was today criticized by the Indonesia Human Rights Commission.
“The raids increase the risk of persecution and other law-defying acts,” the commission’s Beka Ulung Hapsara, told Reuters.
The order for raids has also been condemned by Amnesty International.
Usman Hamid, the organization’s Indonesia’s Executive Director, said: “This latest vicious campaign against LGBTI people must stop.
“Same-sex relations are protected under international law and there can be no justification for these hateful raids.
“The authorities in Indonesia repeatedly launch humiliating crackdowns on suspected same-sex activity, and misuse laws against loitering or public nuisance to harass and arrest LGBTI people.
“The Indonesian government should also repeal all laws that criminalize specific gender identities and expressions.”
The UK imposed a news blackout on Sinaga’s trials while they continued. In total, he faced four separate trials. He has been told he will face a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Since news of his sentencing was announced last week, around 30 other men have contacted police to say they think they may have been one of Sinaga’s unidentified victims.
During Sinaga’s crime spree, he would go out late to pick up drunken, young straight men who had left nightclubs and bars and who had often become separated from their friends.
He would invite them back to his flat to continue drinking, to call for a taxi, or simply to recharge their phone. Once there, he would drug them and rape them. He would record the attacks on his phone.
Sinaga – who was only 5’7” and said to be of an unthreatening demeanor – was only caught in 2018 when his final victim, an 18-year-old, 6’-tall rugby player, woke up while being attacked.
He attacked Sinaga, escaped, and went to police. At first, the victim was arrested on suspicion of assault. However, when police examined Sinaga’s phone, they came across hundreds of video clips showing him raping unconscious men.
Since his sentencing, Sinaga’s family has spoken to the press. His father, Saibun, told BBC Indonesia, “We accept the verdict. His punishment fits his crimes. I don’t want to discuss the case any further.”
His mother, in an interview with The Sunday Times in the UK, she said she still struggled to accept what her son had done. Normawati said she’d begged her son to return to Indonesia to help run the family palm oil plantation and refinery, but he’d told her he wished to remain in the UK because he, “felt comfortable living in Manchester.”
“We are a good Christian family who do not believe in homosexuality. He is my baby,” his mother said.