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US Special Envoy for LGBT Jessica Stern Cancelled Visit to Indonesia After Protests

Liputan6.com, Jakarta - US Special Envoy for LGBT rights, Jessica Stern, cancelled her visit to Indonesia. She initially planned to visit Indonesia on December 7 as part of her visit to Southeast Asia.

Stern was appointed by President Joe Biden. She is the Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+).

The U-turn was suddenly announced by the United States Embassy in Jakarta on Friday evening.

"After discussions with our counterparts in the Indonesian government, we have decided to cancel Special Envoy Stern’s visit to Indonesia," said U.S. Ambassador for Indonesia, Sung Kim, Friday (2/12/2022). 

"Knowing that around the world LGBTQI+ persons experience disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination, it is important to continue the dialogue and ensure mutual respect for one another, rather than pretending that the issues do not exist," he continued.

During a press conference earlier in the day, Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave implicit message that a friend should not visit with unwanted gift. 

The US Embassy refused to elaborate whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the cancellation.

Previously, Stern already faced opposition from the conservatives, including from Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

"Regarding the arrival of Jessica Stern, the special envoy from the United States to promote LGBTQI+ human rights on 7-9 December to Indonesia, the MUI has stated that it firmly rejects the presence of the special envoy," said MUI Secretary General Anwar Abbas in a statement, Thursday (1/12/2022).

According to him, Jessica's arrival will only damage the religion and culture of the Indonesian people. He said that rejecting guests is better than accepting.

"As a religious and civilized nation, we are ordered to respect guests. But we also cannot accept guests whose purpose of coming here is to damage and mess up the noble values ​​of our nation's religion and culture," he said.

Prior joining President Joe Biden's administration, Jessica Stern is a human rights activist with experience at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and OutRight Action International. 

 

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Lack of Communication

Just a few hours before Stern's cancellation, Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday said the US Embassy had not yet provided an arrival agenda, although Stern's visit was only days away.

The spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Teuku Faizasyah, admitted that his party was following this development through the media. The US has nod neither confirmed the visit nor who the envoy would meet.

"We cannot confirm his arrival yet. So, first, please check with the US Embassy itself whether it is confirmed or not," said Teuku Faizasyah in Jakarta on Friday.

When asked if there was a possibility that Jessica Stern would be rejected to enter Indonesia, Faizasyah said it was an Immigration matter.

"I don't know," said Faizasyah, "I can't speak on behalf of Immigration."

Faizasyah did not explicitly discuss LGBT issues, but he gave an analogy that as a friend you should first ask about the exact schedule, who you will meet with, and bring something you like.

"As good friends, of course, we don't bring anything that is not pleasing," he said.

Based on the release of the US State Department website, Jessica Stern will visit the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. The plan is for her to meet government representatives and human rights activists.

 

Safinatun Nikmah and Fachrur Rozie contributed to the report.

 

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