Hundreds of hard-line Muslim protesters staged rallies in cities across the country on Sunday to urge the government to prevent the spread of HIV by implementing Islamic law.
Ahead of World AIDS Day on Tuesday, members of the group Hizbut Tahrir took to the streets in several major cities, including Jakarta, Solo, Yogyakarta and Makassar in South Sulawesi.
“We urge everybody to support the application of Shariah in an Islamic caliphate so that, God willing, all of us will be free from the threat of HIV/AIDS,” Hizbut Tahrir spokeswoman Febrianti Abassuni said in a statement.
In Jakarta, more than 200 female demonstrators urged the government to close down brothels and ban condoms, which they said encouraged “free sex and unhealthy behavior.”
One banner read: “Prostitutes, drug users and homosexuals are the agents of immorality.”
In Pekanbaru, Riau, hundreds of high school students joined a Hizbut Tahrir rally, marching along Jalan Sudirman with posters and banners asking the government to clamp down on the sex industry and drugs to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
The protesters said government efforts to counter the spread of the deadly virus did not address the root causes of the problem, which they said were the prevalence of casual sex and homosexuality.
“As a result, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Indonesia has increased quite sharply, as much as sixfold in the last three years,” said Noveriyanti, the chairwoman of the Riau branch of Hizbut Tahrir.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, she added, as of June 2009 there were 17,699 cases of AIDS in the country.
“This situation makes us worry about the future of Indonesia,” she said, “because about 80 percent of the 298,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are in the 20 to 39 age group, so that this nation is in real danger of having a ‘lost generation.’ ”
The protesters called on Indonesians to be obedient to God in all things and asked Muslims to live according to Shariah.
They also demanded that programs providing free condoms for male and female prostitutes be ended and that the sex and pornography industries be closed down.
Around 270,000 Indonesians are estimated to be infected with HIV, and AIDS has claimed about 8,700 lives in a nation of 228 million people, according to the UNAIDS agency.