LGBT rights in Indonesia

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LGBT rights in Indonesia Indonesia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal nationwide, except the provinces of Aceh and the city of Palembang in South Sumatra. (applies only to Muslims)
Gender identity/expression Transsexuals are allowed to change their sex with several conditions
Military service No
Discrimination protections No
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia face legal challenges and prejudices not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Traditional mores disapprove of homosexuality and cross-dressing, which impacts public policy. For example, Indonesian same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for any of the legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples. Indonesia does not have a sodomy law and Indonesia does not currently criminalize private, non-commercial homosexuality act among consenting adults, yet Indonesian law does not protect LGBT community against discrimination and possible hate crimes. Currently, Indonesia does not recognize same-sex marriage. In July 2015, Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister stated that it is unacceptable in Indonesia, because strongly held religious norms speak strongly against it.[1] The importance in Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights to be emphasized, which means that human rights along with LGBT rights are very fragile.[2] Yet, the LGBT community in Indonesia has steadily become more visible and politically active.[2]

Recently LGBT people in Indonesia are facing growing hostility and intolerance.[3] In early 2016, LGBT people and activists in Indonesia are facing fierce opposition, homophobic attacks, and hate speech, even launched by Indonesian authorities.[4] In February 2016, Human Rights Watch urged Indonesian government to defend the rights of LGBT people and publicly condemn officials' discriminatory remarks.[5]

Coming out to family and friends is seldom carried out by LGBT people in Indonesia, as they are more afraid of rejection and social backlash. Nevertheless, there are some rare examples of understanding and acceptance of the family of LGBT person.[6]

Legal status[edit]

Currently, unlike neighboring Malaysia, Indonesian law does not specifically have a sodomy law. The national criminal code does not prohibit private, non-commercial homosexual relations between consenting adults. A national bill to criminalise homosexuality, along with cohabitation, adultery and the practice of witchcraft, failed to be enacted in 2003 and no subsequent bill has been reintroduced.[7]

Indonesia allows its provincial governments to establish certain Islamic-based laws, such as criminal sanctions for homosexuality. These local penalties exist in Aceh and South Sumatra provinces, where bylaws against LGBT rights have been passed.[8] The bylaws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts as well as all zina (sexual relations outside of marriage). These sharia-based criminal codes permit as punishment up to 100 lashes and up to 100 months in prison for consensual same-sex sex acts, while zina violations carry a penalty of 100 lashes.[8]

While Indonesia has allowed private and consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex since 1993, it has a higher age of consent for same-sex relations than for heterosexual relations (17 for heterosexuals and 18 for homosexuals).[9]

The Constitution does not explicitly address sexual orientation or gender identity. It does guarantee all citizens various legal rights, including equality before the law, equal opportunity, humane treatment in the workplace, religious freedom, freedom of opinion, peaceful assembly, and association. Such legal rights are all expressly limited by the laws designed to protect public order and religious morality.[10]

While legal, the government has taken certain steps to censor films and other media content that is deemed to be "promoting" homosexuality. In 2016, the government announced plans to ban several LGBT websites and computer applications.

Call for discrimination and criminalisation[edit]

The strongest opposition against the recognition of LGBT rights in Indonesia has come from religious authorities and pressure-groups, especially Islamic organisations. Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI) has made a statement, which stigmatised the LGBT population by declaring them "deviant" and an affront to the "dignity of Indonesia."[8]

In 2002, the Indonesian Government gave Aceh Province the right to introduce Sharia Law, albeit only to Muslim residents. The northernmost province of Aceh proceeded to enact a sharia-based anti-homosexuality law that punishes anyone caught having gay sex with 100 lashes. The law was set for enforcement by the end of 2015.[11] Another example is the city of Palembang which introduced jail and fines for homosexual sex.[12] Under the law homosexuality is defined as an act of "prostitution that violates the norms of common decency, religion, and legal norms as they apply to societal rule."[13] The following acts are defined as acts of prostitution: homosexual sex, lesbians, sodomy, sexual harassment, and other pornographic acts. Fifty-two regions have since enacted Sharia-based law from the Qur'an, which criminalises homosexuality.[13]

In March 2015, Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI) issued fatwa, or religious edict, called for same-sex acts to be punished by caning, and in some instances, the death penalty.[8] The fatwa considers homosexuality a curable disease and says homosexual acts "must be heavily punished."[8]

Indonesian People's Representative Council (DPR) has dismissed that the death penalty law against same-sex acts would be passed, citing that it is quite impossible to implement that policy in Indonesia. The DPR said that the MUI fatwa is only served as a moral guidance for its adherent, not as positive law with legal power that only possessed by the state.[14]

In the wake of surging anti-LGBT sentiments started in early 2016, in March 2016, Islamist parties like Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and United Development Party (PPP), have proposed an anti LGBT bill to ban LGBT rights activism, and criminalise LGBT behaviour.[15]

LGBT rights movement in Indonesia[edit]

In 1982 the first gay rights interest group was established in Indonesia. The "Lambda Indonesia" and other similar organisations arose in the late 1980s and 1990s.[16] Today, some of the major LGBT associations in the nation include "Gaya Nusantara" and "Arus Pelangi".

The gay and lesbian movement in Indonesia is one of the oldest and largest in Southeast Asia.[17] Lambda Indonesia activities included organising social gatherings, consciousness-raising and created a newsletter, but the group dissolved in the 1990s. Gaya Nusantara is a gay rights group which focuses on homosexual issues such as AIDS. Another group is the Yayasan Srikandi Sejati, which was founded in 1998. Their main focus is health issues pertaining to transgender people and their work includes providing HIV/AIDS counselling and free condoms to transgender sex workers at a free health clinic.[13] There are now over thirty LGBT groups in Indonesia.[13]

Yogyakarta, Indonesia, hosted a 2006 summit on LGBT rights that produced the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.[18] However, a summit in March 2010 in Surabaya was met with condemnation from the Indonesian Ulema Council and was disrupted by conservative protesters.[19]

By 2015, the victory of LGBT rights movement in Western countries has its significant implications in Indonesia. As numbers influential Western countries like European nations and the United States legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, the LGBT rights issue has caught the attention and awareness of general public in Indonesia and generates public discourse. The popular opinion split into several stances, and the reaction mainly was not positive. The right-wing elements in Indonesian politics, especially religious-based political parties and organization has publicly condemned LGBT rights. Some argued that currently Indonesia is under the threat of global LGBT "propaganda", which promotes an "LGBT lifestyle".[20] The same-sex marriage or civil union became the main issue discussed on public regarding LGBT rights, although LGBT activist argued that currently they do not fight for marriage equality, but just seek for fundamental human rights of security, freedom from fear and freedom to assembly.[3]


Legal guidelines regarding HIV/AIDS do not exist, although AIDS is a major problem in most countries in the region. Those infected with HIV travelling to Indonesia can be refused entry or threatened with quarantine. Due to the lack of sex education in Indonesian schools, there is little knowledge of the disease among the general population. Some organisations, however, do offer sex education – though they face open hostility from school authorities. In the beginning of the gay rights movement in Indonesia, LGBT organisations focused exclusively on health issues which led to the public believing that AIDS was a ‘gay disease’ and led to LGBT people being stigmatised.[13]

Opposition against LGBT rights movement[edit]

Traditionally Indonesians are quite tolerant towards LGBT people, as long as they keep quiet and stay discreet about their private live.[21] However, this level of tolerance is not extended towards LGBT rights movements, which recently faces fierce condemnation launched by Indonesian authorities and extended to public sphere. The anti-LGBT rhetoric began in January 2016 when Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir said LGBT people should be barred from university campuses.[4] The minister called for a ban on gay groups on university campuses, in response after a group of University of Indonesia (UI) students established a counseling and support group called the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC).[22] The group was meant as a counseling service, resource center and support group on sexuality and gender issues, especially for youth and students. This includes LGBT issues, since LGBT youth and students often suffers from abuses, harassment, violence and discrimination regarding their gender and sexuality. SGRC sees LGBT person as human beings who need a friend and protection. SGRC tried to advocate for those who suffer from gender-based violence. LGBT is part of sexuality and gender issue, thus it is part of SGRC study. The group explains that they do not "turn" or "encourage" people to be gay, nor tried to "cure" gay people either.[23] Amids the heat of the issue, the University of Indonesia refuses to be held responsible for SGRC's actions and said the group is not officially registered under UI students organization.[22] Then another official pressured smartphone instant-messaging services to drop gay and lesbian-themed emoji, prompting one company to comply.[3]

Generally, religious authorities in Indonesia are condemning homosexual acts and fiercely against LGBT rights movement. Strongest opposition came from majority Islamic groups with Majelis Ulama Indonesia calling for criminalization on homosexuality.[8] Other religious groups, such as Christianity and the Roman Catholic church also has expressed their rejection on LGBT rights in Indonesia. The religious authority of Roman Catholic church in Indonesia reiterated that Catholicism do not recognize same-sex marriage, while assuring that despite their transgressions, LGBT people should be protected and not be harmed.[24]

The Indonesia Psychiatric Association (PDSKJI) classified homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism as mental disorders. Referring to Law No.18/2014 on Mental Health and the association's Mental Health and Mental Disorder Diagnostic Guidelines, the PDSKJI categorizes homosexuals and bisexuals as "people with psychiatric problems", while transgender people have "mental disorders".[25]

Some military figure even went to conspiracy theory rhetoric; Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu called the LGBT movement a "proxy war" to brainwash Indonesians, that received "foreign funding",[4] while pointing out funds from United Nations organizations like UNAIDS or Western governments and foundations.

There have been a few incidents of LGBT people being harassed. LGBT groups are now working to set up safehouses and draw up evacuation plans in case of need. In Yogyakarta, on February 2016, 23 LGBT activists were roughed up by police, who told local media they stopped them from holding a rally to avoid a clash with a hardline Muslim group holding an anti-LGBT protest nearby.[4]

On the other hand, amids fierce hostilities, some officials have defended the LGBT community - including Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan. "Whoever they are, wherever they work, he or she continues to be an Indonesian citizen. They have the right to be protected as well," Pandjaitan said.[4]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

The status of transvestite, transsexual or other transgender persons in Indonesia is complex. Cross-dressing is not, per se, illegal and some public tolerance is given to some transgender people working in beauty salons or in the entertainment industry, most notably the celebrity talk show host Dorce Gamalama. However, the law does not protect transgender people from discrimination or harassment and it also does not provide for sex change operations or allowing transgender persons to gain new legal documents after they have made the transition.[26]

Olga Syahputra, an Indonesian actor, comedian, television presenter played characters transvestites but denied being homosexual.

Discrimination, harassment, even violence directed at transgender people is not uncommon. Transgender people who do not hide their gender identity often find it difficult to maintain legitimate employment and thus are often forced into prostitution and other illegal activities to survive.

The Islamic Indonesian Ulema Council ruled that transgender persons must live in the gender that they were born with. "If they are not willing to cure themselves medically and religiously", said a Council member, they must be willing "to accept their fate to be ridiculed and harassed."[27]

In 2012, Yuli Retoblaut, a fifty-year-old transgender person and US President Barack Obama's nanny for two years, publicly applied to be the head of the nation's National Commission on Human Rights.[28] The city of Yogyakarta has the only madrasa for transgender people in the world.[29]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

The law does not recognise same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.[1]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

See also: LGBT parenting

Same-sex couples are not eligible to adopt a child in Indonesia. Only married couples consisting of a husband and a wife can adopt.[30]

Civil rights protections[edit]

As of 2007, no law exists to protect Indonesia citizens from discrimination or harassment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.[1]

LGBT in the media[edit]

The Law Against Pornography and Pornoaction (2006) prohibits "…any writing or audio-visual presentation – including songs, poetry, films, paintings, and photographs that show or suggest sexual relations between persons of the same sex."[31] Those in violation of the law could be fined or sentenced to prison for up to seven years.[13] However, the media is now giving homosexuality more media coverage in Indonesia.[2]

In February 2016, the public discourse and debates on homosexuality and LGBT issues has intensified with the occurrence of high-profile cases of alleged homosexual misconducts, involving Indonesian celebrities. First, an accusation of sexual approach and harassment done by TV personality Indra Bekti upon several men. Followed by the case of dangdut singer Saiful Jamil, who has been named a suspect in a sexual assault involving an underage male fan.[32]

Until recently, the depiction of LGBT people are quite visible in Indonesian media, especially in television, with popular TV personalities, hosts, artist and celebrities with effeminate demeanors, or even cross dressers, are quite common in Indonesian television shows. However, after the alleged homosexual scandals involving Indonesian celebrities, in March 2016 the national broadcasting commission emphasize a policy banning TV and radio programs that make LGBT behavior appear "normal", saying this was to protect children and teenagers who are "susceptible to immitating deviant LGBT behaviors".[4] This meant that broadcast companies, especially television stations, are discouraged from featuring effeminate figures, transgender people or cross-dressing in their programs, although such practices were previously quite common in Indonesian TV shows, especially TV variety shows and lawak (commedy) performances.[4]

Political party opinions[edit]

Most of major political parties and politicians remain silent in the cause of LGBT rights. Islamist parties like PKS (Prosperous Justice Party) and PPP (United Development Party) speak strongly against LGBT rights, and went further to propose a national bill to criminalise LGBT. In March 2016, PKS and PPP have proposed an anti LGBT bill to ban LGBT activism, and criminalise LGBT rights and behaviour.[15] PAN (National Mandate Party), despite sharing anti LGBT right sentiments with PKS and PPP however, has asked people not to discriminate and harassed LGBT community. But in return, urged LGBT people not to promote LGBT rights in Indonesia.[33]

Currently, no political party in Indonesia has openly support LGBT right movement. Nevertheless, some politicians from the PDI-P (Party for the Indonesian Democracy Struggle) and the moderately conservative PKB (National Awakening Party) sympathize with LGBT rights.[13] PDI-P further stated that as a pluralist party, they can accept the existence of LGBT people. Despite holds that it is a deviant behaviour, PDI-P urge people to tolerate LGBT people and not extend hostile sentiments against them.[34]

Living conditions[edit]

Indonesia contains the most Muslim people in the world with 87% of its citizens identifying themselves as Muslim.[17] The family policy of the Indonesian authorities, the social pressure to marry and religion means that homosexuality is generally not supported.[17] Both modernist and traditionalist Muslims as well also other religious groups such as Christians, especially Roman Catholics, generally oppose homosexuality. Many Islamic fundamentalist groups such as the FPI (the Front of Supporters of Islam) and the FBR (Betawi Council Forum) are openly hostile towards LGBT people by attacking the home or work of those they believe are a threat to the values of Islam.[13]

Explicit discrimination and violent homophobia is carried out mainly by religious extremists, while subtle discrimination and marginalization occurs in daily life among friends, family, at work or school.[17] LGBT people often suffer abuse by the hands of the police but it is hard to document due to victims refusing to give statements due to their sexuality.[17] LGBT people are often arrested or charged due to their sexual orientation.[17] Gays in jails are often sexually abused due to their sexual orientation, and often do not report it due to being traumatized and fear of being sent back to prison to suffer further abuse.[17]

Indonesia does have a reputation as being a relatively moderate and tolerant Muslim nation, which does have some application to LGBT people. There are some LGBT people in the media and the national government has allowed a discrete LGBT community to exist, and sometimes organize public events. However, the conservative Islamic social mores tend to dominate within the broader society. Homosexuality and cross-dressing remain taboo and periodically LGBT people become the targets of local religious laws or fanatical vigilante groups.[35]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes Legal nationwide, except
No Illegal in the provinces of Aceh and South Sumatra (applies only to Muslims)
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Difficult for Indonesia to legalize gay marriage: Minister". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta. 2 July 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Offord, Baden; Cantrell, Leon (May 2001). "Homosexual Rights as Human Rights in Indonesia and Australia". Journal of Homosexuality. Routledge. 40 (3&4): 233–252. doi:10.1300/J082v40n03_12. ISSN 0091-8369. 
  3. ^ a b c Jeffrey Hutton (15 February 2016). "Anti-Gay Actions in Indonesia Threaten a Fragile Population". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Alisa Tang (8 March 2016). "Under attack, Indonesian LGBT groups set up safehouses, live in fear". Reuters. 
  5. ^ "Indonesia: Flurry of Anti-Gay Statements by Officials, Condemn Bias; Pledge to Protect LGBT Groups". Human Rights Watch. 11 February 2016. 
  6. ^ Liza Yosephine. "A portrait of a gay Indonesian". The Jakarta Post. 
  7. ^ Indonesia Seeks to Imprison Gays,, 30 September 2003
  8. ^ a b c d e f "In response to anti-LGBT fatwa, Jokowi urged to abolish laws targeting minorities". The Jakarta Post. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  9. ^ LGBT World Legal Wrap up Survey
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Gayatri Suroyo and Charlotte Greenfield (27 December 2014). "Strict sharia forces gays into hiding in Indonesia's Aceh". reuters. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Dead link, Nov 2006
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Indonesia: Gays Fight Sharia Laws, Doug Ireland
  14. ^ "Fatwa MUI Hukum Mati Kaum Homoseksual Dinilai Sulit Diterapkan". Tribunnews (in Indonesian). 18 March 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Qommarria Rostanti (8 March 2016). Achmad Syalaby, ed. "Giliran PPP Dukung Inisiasi RUU LGBT". Republika (in Indonesian). 
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Laurent, Erick (May 2001). "Sexuality and Human Rights". Journal of Homosexuality. Routledge. 40 (3&4): 163–225. doi:10.1300/J082v48n03_09. ISSN 0091-8369. 
  18. ^ "The Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Earth Times. Conservative Indonesian Muslims break up gay meeting. 26 March 2010
  20. ^ Intan Paramaditha (27 February 2016). "The LGBT debate and the fear of 'gerakan'". The Jakarta Post. Sydney. 
  21. ^ Gollmer, Anggatira (2 March 2011). "It's OK to be gay in Indonesia so long as you keep it quiet". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  22. ^ a b "Mahasiswa Beri Konseling LGBT, Begini Respons UI". (in Indonesian). 21 January 2016. 
  23. ^ Wisnu Prasetyo (23 January 2016). "Support Group untuk LGBT di UI: Kami Tak Mendorong dan Menyembuhkan Orang dari Gay". detikNews (in Indonesian). 
  24. ^ "Sikap Gereja Katolik terhadap isu LGBT". UCAN Indonesia (in Indonesian). 19 February 2016. 
  25. ^ Liza Yosephine (24 February 2016). "Indonesian psychiatrists label LGBT as mental disorders". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta. 
  26. ^ " - Corner of Hollywood and Gay". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  27. ^ "AP Exclusive: Obama's transgender ex-nanny outcast". Yahoo News. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  28. ^ "Obama's transgender former nanny living in fear in Indonesia". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. March 6, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Transgender Muslims Find a Home for Prayer in Indonesia". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. December 22, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Yayasan Sayap Ibu Jakarta". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  31. ^ "Indonesia's New Anti-Porn Agenda". Time. 6 November 2008. 
  32. ^ Safrin La Batu (February 20, 2016). "Saiful case intensifies LGBT debate". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta. 
  33. ^ "PAN Minta Masyarakat Tidak Diskriminatif dengan Komunitas LGBT". Okezone (in Indonesian). 26 February 2016. 
  34. ^ Faiq Hidayat (18 February 2016). "PDIP bisa maklumi LGBT, perlu diedukasi bukan dimusuhi". (in Indonesian). 
  35. ^ Spartacus International Gay Guide, page 484. Bruno Gmunder Verlag, 2007