Monday, 30th October 2017

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Gay exam for foreign teachers

The goal is to determine teachers’ sexual orientation and attitude toward gay rights under a 2015 government regulation

By Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono/New York Times News Service in Jakarta
  • Published 25.12.19, 12:19 AM
  • Updated 25.12.19, 12:19 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
The test comes as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people face growing hostility across Indonesia, which was once seen as among the most tolerant countries in the Islamic world. Officially secular, Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. Shutterstock

Agree or disagree, the exam asked: “I would feel uncomfortable knowing my daughter’s or son’s teacher was homosexual.”

Or this, true or false: “The gender composition of an orgy would be irrelevant to my decision to participate.”

In recent weeks, foreign teachers at some private schools in Indonesia have been required to answer these questions and many more like them in what has been billed as a psychological exam.

The goal is to determine teachers’ sexual orientation and attitude toward gay rights under a 2015 government regulation that prohibits international schools from hiring foreign teachers who have “an indication of abnormal sexual behaviour or orientation”.

“For foreign teachers, if the psychologist declares that a candidate has a deviant sexual orientation, certainly the school will not hire that person,” said Waadarrahman, an official with the education and culture ministry.

The test comes as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people face growing hostility across Indonesia, which was once seen as among the most tolerant countries in the Islamic world. Officially secular, Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population.

In September, Parliament came close to passing an overhaul of the criminal code that would have effectively outlawed gay and lesbian relations. A similar proposal is expected to come up in the new year.

In Bekasi Regency, which adjoins the capital city, Jakarta, the Child Protection Agency said this month that it had used police records to identify 4,000 people who suffer from the “disease” of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Promoting theories debunked in the West, the agency’s commissioner, Mohamad Rojak, said “the majority of sexual disorientation” was caused by “carefree lifestyles” and urged the people on his list to overcome their condition by getting “therapy.”

The crackdown on LGBT people in Indonesian workplaces extends beyond schools. The office of Indonesia’s attorney general, which is responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination, last month said on its website that job applicants must not have “sexual orientation disorders” or “behavioural deviations”.

“We just want the normal ones,” a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, Mukri, told reporters. “We don’t want the odd ones.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia except in the autonomous province of Aceh, where gays and lesbians can be caned under Shariah.

But the country’s new vice-president, Ma’ruf Amin, formerly a leading Islamic cleric, has long supported criminalisation and harsh punishment of gays and lesbians.

The teacher-testing requirement was adopted after a contentious 2014 case in which a Canadian educator and six Indonesians were accused of sexually abusing young students at the prestigious Jakarta International School.

All seven were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms on the basis of preposterous evidence, including that the Canadian, Neil Bantleman, used magical powers to seduce the children and render the crime scenes invisible. He was granted clemency in June and freed after five years.

Officials say one purpose of the testing regulation was to prevent foreign paedophiles from being hired as teachers. But the psychological exam questions reviewed by The New York Times focus instead on sexual orientation and attitudes toward homosexuality.

Waadarrahman, the education ministry official, said the regulation applies to 168 schools, including the renamed Jakarta Intercultural School, that offer an international curriculum.

Many of the schools attract wealthy Indonesians who want their children to have access to an international education with Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programmes.

The Jakarta Intercultural School’s headmaster, Tarek Razik, declined to comment on the regulation or how the school handles the psychological screening of its teachers.

The recent wave of testing has alarmed some foreign teachers who are concerned that schools or government officials are seeking to remove teachers who may be gay. But teachers critical of the test declined to speak out publicly for fear of losing their jobs.

Under the regulation, the schools are required to have a psychologist certify that each teacher does not have a behaviour disorder or an “abnormal sexual orientation”.

Enforcement of the regulation, however, is haphazard. Each school is left to hire a psychologist to conduct the teacher certification process, which is required both before a teacher is hired and every six years when a school’s accreditation is renewed.

There is no standardised exam. The testing procedure is left to individual schools and some versions of the exam are more intrusive than others.

One school that administered the test last month was the Mentari Intercultural School in Jakarta.

The exam included many behavioural questions, at least 38 of which dealt with sexual orientation and attitudes toward gay rights, according to pages of the test provided to The New York Times.