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Homophobia in Indonesia- How Much Has Actually Changed When There Are Laws Making Homosexuality A Punishable Offence?


By Deeksha Aggarwalla

Homophobia lurks around in every corner and often translates into various forms in practice and law. It is sadistically funny that homophobic seek to punish the community to cure their fear. If someone is claustrophobic, it gives them no right to ban the use of elevators!

In around ten countries homosexuality is punishable by death including Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Sudan. A few years ago, the Zimbabwean President threatened to behead Zimbabwean gays and described them as ‘filth.’

The LGBT community is often made a scapegoat by leaders, looking to woo the conservative section of voters. This often results in further vulnerability and confinement of the minority community.

Indonesia is one of the nations where even though homosexuality has not been criminalised homophobia is very aggressive and prevalent. In 1993, the Indonesian government passed a law which makes private, consensual and non-commercial homosexuality legal. The LGBT community still suffers the hands of not only the government but also the public.

Explicit removal of LGBT emos from messaging apps. Although the government has not actively banned homosexuality, it has exhibited its dislike in many shapes. On February 10, the global messaging giant Line’s Indonesian branch announced that they had removed all LGBT emos, in an attempt to align themselves with the local anti-LGBT wisdom.

Of course, LINE is not the only messaging app which has LGBT emos. Whatsapp has them as well, which the users can use free of charge. The head of PR at Ministry of Communication and Information Broadcasting, Ismail Cawidu has, therefore, asserted that they are going to contact Whatsapp to remove the gay friendly emos as well.


Twitter Trends

The country’s Vice President, recently requested United Nations Development Program not to invest in LGBT causes. UNDP has decided to contribute $ 8 billion for the same in East Asia including Indonesia. This led to #TolakLGBT trending on Twitter. Tolak in the Indonesian language means reject.

Following are a few tweets to understand the depth of emotions that some of the Twitter users in Indonesia have with regards to homosexuality:

LGBT Tweet#1

LGBT Tweet#2

[The above is a refrain of ‘God Created Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve.’ Hendra is a popular Ironically, most of these tweets have been from iOS phones – a company whose CEO is openly gay.]

Juxtaposing India’s law and history

Khajuraho Images

India has not been far behind in this fight between law, commentary and condemnation. It has an antiquated colonial section 377, which not only criminalises same sex relationships but also calls them unnatural. The Supreme Court recently referred the aforementioned section to a five judge bench. Anti-same-sex comments and movements are abound in India, whether they are from babas, netas or the common man – a contradiction to our history and culture.

Homophobic movements are not restricted to the developing world. Even in the USA, where same sex marriage was recently legalised, there are states which do not support it. In a world which talks about democracy, liberalism, fraternity and equality – the LGBT community lives in the shadow of fear all the time. It is surreal how something as natural as sexual orientation and gender has been turned into an ugly battle!


Quick fact: Nepal’s new constitution has made explicit laws for protection of the LGBT community. That should be enough food for thought.

There are different malpractices forced upon women and gender minorities all over the world. Homosexuals were forced to vasectomy and women are subjected to genital mutilation. To know more,  click here.

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