LGBT rights in Indonesia

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LGBT rights in Indonesia Indonesia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal, except for Muslims in Aceh province and South Sumatra
Gender identity/expression Transsexuals are allowed to change their sex with several conditions
Discrimination protections No
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia will 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. The importance in Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights to be emphasised, which means that human rights along with homosexual rights are very fragile.[1] Yet, the LGBT community in Indonesia has steadily become more visible and politically active.[1]

Legal status[edit]

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.[2]

Indonesia allows its provincial governments to establish certain Islamic based laws, such as criminal sanctions for homosexuality . These local penalties exist in the Aceh province and Palembang city, where provincial bylaws against LGBT rights was passed in September 2014.[3] The bylaws extend sharia (Islamic law) to non-Muslims, criminalising consensual same-sex sexual acts as well as all zina (sexual relations outside of marriage). This sharia-based criminal code permits 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.[3]

In Jakarta, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are legally labelled as "cacat" or mentally handicapped and are therefore not protected under the law.[4] 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).[5]

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 [2].

Call for discrimination and criminalisation[edit]

The strongest opposition against the recognition of LGBT rights in Indonesia, came 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."[3]

In 2002, the Indonesian Government gave Aceh Province the right to introduce Sharia Law, albeit only to Muslim residents. Indonesia's northernmost province of Aceh for example, has a sharia-based anti-homosexuality law that punishes anyone caught having gay sex with 100 lashes, the law will be enforced by the end of 2015.[6] Another example, the city of Palembang introduced jail and fines for homosexual sex.[7] 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'.[4] 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.[4]

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.[3] The fatwa considers homosexuality a curable disease and says homosexual acts "must be heavily punished."[3]

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 a served as a moral guidance for its adherent, not as positive law with legal power that only possessed by the state.[8]

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.[9]

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."[10]

In 2012, Yuli Retoblaut, a fifty-year-old transgender person, publicly applied to be the head of the nation's human rights commission.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

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

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.[11]

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.[citation needed]

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."[12] Those in violation of the law could be fined or sentenced to prison for up to seven years.[4] However, the media is now giving homosexuality more media coverage in Indonesia.[1]

Political party opinions[edit]

Most political parties and politicians remain silent in the cause of LGBT rights but some politicians from the PDI-P (Party for the Indonesian Democracy Struggle) and the moderately conservative PKB (National Awakening Party) support LGBT rights.[4]

Living conditions[edit]

Indonesia contains the most Muslim people in the world with 87% of its citizens identifying themselves as Muslim.[13] The family policy of the Indonesian authorities, the social pressure to marry and religion means that homosexuality is generally not supported.[13] Both traditionalists and modernist Muslims, and also other religious group 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.[4]

Explicit discrimination and violent homophobia is carried out mainly by religious extremists, while subtle discrimination and marginalisation occurs in daily life among friends, family, at work or school.[13] 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.[13] LGBT people are often arrested or charged due to their sexual orientation.[13] Also gays in jails are sexually abused due to their sexual orientation, and often do not report it due to being traumatised and fear of being sent back to prison to suffer further abuse.[13]

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, even organise 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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[13] 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 transgendered people and their work includes providing HIV/AIDS counselling and free condoms to transgender sex workers at a free health clinic.[4] There are now over thirty LGBT groups in Indonesia.[4]

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.[16] However, a summit in March 2010 in Surabaya was met with condemnation from the Indonesian Ulema Council and was disrupted by conservative protesters.[17]


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.[4]

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 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. 
  2. ^ Indonesia Seeks to Imprison Gays,, 30 September 2003
  3. ^ a b c d e "In response to anti-LGBT fatwa, Jokowi urged to abolish laws targeting minorities". The Jakarta Post. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Indonesia: Gays Fight Sharia Laws, Doug Ireland
  5. ^ LGBT World Legal Wrap up Survey
  6. ^ Gayatri Suroyo and Charlotte Greenfield (27 December 2014). "Strict sharia forces gays into hiding in Indonesia's Aceh". reuters. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Dead link, Nov 2006
  8. ^ "Fatwa MUI Hukum Mati Kaum Homoseksual Dinilai Sulit Diterapkan". Tribunnews (in Indonesian). 18 March 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  9. ^ " - Corner of Hollywood and Gay". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "AP Exclusive: Obama's transgender ex-nanny outcast". Yahoo News. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Yayasan Sayap Ibu Jakarta". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Indonesia's New Anti-Porn Agenda, Time, 6 November 2008
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Spartacus International Gay Guide, page 484. Bruno Gmunder Verlag, 2007
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "The Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Earth Times. Conservative Indonesian Muslims break up gay meeting. 26 March 2010