The LGBTQA+ community in Indonesia faces increased discrimination
Since a ‘moral panic’ over the gay community swept through Indonesia in 2016, there has been an increase in the number of unlawful arrests and violent attacks against the gay community. Government silence on the issue has emboldened vigilante groups opposed to LGBTQA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Asexual, and others) people.
Life has never been easy for the LGBTQA+ population of Indonesia. Homosexuality is legal in most parts of the country. However it’s illegal in Aceh, and for Muslim residents of the city of Palembangit is punishable by flogging in both places. The community has no protection anywhere in the country against discrimination or hate crimes, and faces intense social stigma. The situation became worse in January 2016, when a series of homophobic statements by Indonesian government officials ignited a wave of hate speech. This ranged from fear mongering over ‘gay propaganda’ and suggestions on ‘cures’ for being gay or transgender to calls for the criminalisation of homosexuality. These attacks were supported by government officials, media outlets, religious extremists, and even mainstream religious organisations.
The attacks against the LGBTQA+ community increased again in 2017, with Indonesian police (often tipped off or aided by Militant Islamic groups) carrying out 6 unlawful raids of private homes and businesses. They suspected these places housed LGBTQA+ people. More than 300 people were arrested for their presumed gender identity or sexual orientation, the highest arrest numbers ever recorded in Indonesia. These patterns of human rights violations have continued into 2018, with more raids being conducted.
Indonesia’s government’s failure to prevent these unlawful arrests and acts of vigilante violence has created a culture of fear. This has make it increasingly difficult to address important issues in the community such as the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Militant groups and police break up sessions for education and prevention. Increased social stigma prevents people from seeking medical attention. This is especially important given that rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men have quintupled in several areas of the country since 2007.
The Indonesian government was condemned by the head of the UN High Commission on Human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who visited the country in February 2018, and by many human rights organisations.
It is important to note that these challenges are not unique. LGBTQA+ people all over the world face discrimination and violence. Homosexuality is illegal in 73 countries and is punishable by death in 8 countries. They also face intense social stigma like rejection by their family and friends. As informed global citizens, we must fight for LGBTQA+ people’s rights to be recognised and respected.
How Can I Take Action?
Do you want to support and educate yourself, or are a member of the LGBTQA+ community? Regardless of your orientation, you can join the Genders and Sexualities Alliance club and become a member of the community here at CIS! Since people often get rejected by their families, having a strong support system at school is very important. For more information on the club you can contact:
In addition, if you are interested in what the GSA is and how it has been introduced in our school this year, look out for Elena and Ekari’s article next month!