Naked as the day he was born, the bookish year-old had been invited on stage by one of the strippers hired for a party at the Atlantis Gym. That hardly qualified as outrageous behavior in the red-light district of Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta, where the Atlantis was located. Nearby were plenty of venues with suggestive names like the Playboy Sensation, massage parlors for straight men. Handoko felt safe, if a little embarrassed. Soon after he took the stage, the police stormed the premises.
Officers herded naked, cowering men into the middle of the room and began taking photos, some of which — including one of Mr. Handoko — appeared on Indonesian social media within hours. He and other men were taken away.
Handoko, an aspiring journalist, said last week in an interview at Cipinang prison in Jakarta, where he has been held since the raid in May.
This week, prosecutors notified Mr. But that began to change last year, when the authorities, under pressure from right-wing Islamic groups, started arresting gay men in what experts say are unprecedented numbers, raiding not just bars and saunas but hotel rooms and private apartments.
The crackdown began in November , when the police broke up a party in South Jakarta and detained 13 men. The Atlantis closed soon after the raid in May. Most of the hundreds of men swept up in the raids were released with no charges filed, and few cases have made it to trial. Nine other detainees from the Atlantis raid were sentenced last week to more than two years in prison.
Indonesian news outlets breathlessly detailed services offered at the Atlantis, like mock jail cells for role playing, and speculated that it was a hub for prostitution. Armando said. The pornography law does not apply. Gay men have been caned in public in the autonomous province of Aceh, where Shariah law is enforced.
But in the vast majority of Indonesia, anti-gay violence has been rare, and persecution of gay people by the state has been even rarer. While vigilante groups sometimes got headlines by shutting down gay film festivals or transgender beauty pageants, such violence was not state-sanctioned, Mr. Boellstorff said. But that has begun to change in the last few years, as Indonesian politicians have seen advantage in appealing to hard-line Islamic sentiment.
In early , the minister of higher education banned an L. Later, the broadcasting regulator banned the depiction of gay characters or effeminate men on television. The defense minister likened homosexuality to nuclear war : While a bomb blast over Jakarta would at least be contained, he said, tolerance for gays could spread dangerously throughout the country. President Joko Widodo spoke up for the rights of L. Boellstorff said the current crackdown on gay men had no precedent.
Rights advocates had been skeptical that Mr. Handoko and the other Atlantis defendants would get fair trials. The head judge, Pinta Uli Boru Tarigan, was criticized by Human Rights Watch in for expressing contempt for the Ahmadis, a minority Muslim sect, while overseeing the trial of men charged in a mob attack that killed three of them.
Handoko said Judge Tarigan recounted the story of Sodom and Gomorrah at one of his hearings. A sister of Mr. Handoko, who asked not to be identified because she feared repercussions at her workplace, said the family had cooperated in hopes of a lenient sentence. On the way, cryptic messages of support began arriving from distant relatives. At home she found her mother, a devout Christian, in tears — not just because her son had been arrested, but because he was gay.
Many Indonesians have struggled to put the news about the raids into context, because there are few positive examples of gay men in the popular media, Mr. His life there has been a dull routine of exercise, library and church. But Mr.