A Test for Foreign Teachers in Indonesia: Are You Gay?


JAKARTA, Indonesia — 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 behavior 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 Ministry of Education and Culture. Like many Indonesians, she uses one name.

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, told reporters that “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 L.G.B.T. 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 “behavioral 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 currently not illegal in Indonesia except in the autonomous province of Aceh, where gays and lesbians can be caned under Shariah, the Islamic legal code.

But the country’s new vice president, Ma’ruf Amin, formerly a leading Islamic cleric, has long supported criminalization 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 serving five years.

Officials say one purpose of the testing regulation was to prevent foreign pedophiles 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.

Ms. 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 programs.

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 or lesbian.

But teachers who were 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 behavior 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 standardized 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 behavioral 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.

While the intention of the regulation might have been to root out predators, many of the questions covered attitudes toward gay rights.

For example, agree or disagree:

• “A sexual education curriculum should include all sexual orientations.”

• “Celebrations such as gay pride day are ridiculous because they assume an individual’s sexual orientation should constitute a source of pride.”

• “Teachers should try to reduce their student’s prejudice toward homosexuality.”

Many questions appeared to be derived from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is designed to assess personality traits and psychopathology. Other questions aimed to show where each teacher fit on the Kinsey Scale of sexual orientation.

Many of the questions were personal. These were asked of men:

• “I wouldn’t want to die without having experimented sexually with both men and women.”

• “I can be sexually attracted to anyone in the right circumstances.”

• “I am only attracted to men.”

Mentari school officials did not respond to questions about the test.

A psychologist in the city of Bandung, Ifa H. Misbach, said she declined a school’s request to prepare such an exam because it would be unethical for members of her profession to engage in discriminatory practices.

“It is weird for me, in my humble opinion,” she said in an interview. “Psychologists cannot discriminate on the basis of sexuality.”

She noted that attitudes toward homosexuality are very conservative in Indonesia, where being gay is widely seen as a choice, not a characteristic determined by birth.

“It is different from American culture,” she said. “Every day they have to hide from a society that judges them badly.”

Discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring is “against Indonesia’s constitution, and against Indonesia’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

The advocacy director for the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies, Riska Carolina, said gays and lesbians face increasing government obstacles in many areas of society, including barriers to scholarships or high-profile positions in sports programs.

“The pattern is clear,” she said. “If there are groups that are considered different, they get excluded instead of getting taken care of.”

Dera Menra Sijabat contributed reporting.


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