What’s happening in Indonesia?
Indonesia is a big country, and it’s incredibly diverse. With the word’s fourth-biggest population, Indonesia’s 261 million people are spread out over a country that consists of 17,000 islands.
A constitutional republic, most decision-making is concentrated in the central government. However, there are 34 provinces that each have their own legislature and a range of devolved powers.
What this leads to is quite a lot of variation in the experience of LGBTQ people in Indonesia. Someone living in the capital of Jakarta, or on the tourism-focused island of Bali, is going to have a very difference experience to someone living in the ultra-conservative province of Aceh.
As a broad description, you could describe Indonesia as a socially conservative country. Being LGBTQ is not illegal – except in the province of Aceh where traditional Islamic law is enforced – but there are no protections against discrimination, and there’s no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
However, the outlook for LGBTQ equality appears to be deteriorating, not getting better.
One of the most recent examples comes from the province of West Sumatra. The city of Pariaman has recently passed regulations that ban anything that could be considered to be LGBTQ ‘behaviour’. It’s an example of growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the province, with the governor voicing support for ‘solutions’ to the LGBTQ ‘problem’.
Even in Jakarta, the country’s capital, there seems to be a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ action. The country’s anti-pornography legislation has been used on a number of occasions to raid LGBTQ establishments and arrest LGBTQ people. There is also increasing censorship of any forms of media that may be seen to be promoting LGBTQ sexualities.
The LGBTQ community is often used as a political scapegoat by politicians seeking to appeal to socially conservative voters. The next general election in Indonesia is in April 2019, so it’s likely that we will continue to see anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions rising across the country in the lead up to that election.
It’s going to be worth keeping an eye on what’s happening in Indonesia.