Indonesia LGBT organizations hold their ground amid rising anti-LGBT sentiment

In recent months, a wave of anti-LGBT voices have been dominating Indonesian news and media. Although LGBT visibility and rights have been taboo in Indonesia for some time, the intensity in anti-LGBT rhetoric picked up siognificantly over the last several months. In January, Muhammad Nasir, Technology, Research and Higher Education Minister, said that LGBT people should be barred from university campuses. Since then, LGBT Indonesians have been targeted and attacked for their sexual orientation. GLAAD has been in communication with several LGBT advocates and organizations on the ground to support LGBT Indonesians in this difficult time. 

LGBT people and relationships are not illegal in Indonesia at large, except for the province of Aceh, where Sharia law is in effect. In Aceh, same-sex relationships are punished with 100 lashes. However, according to a 2013 study, 93% of Indonesians believe that LGBT people should not be accepted in society. After a poster for an LGBT student support group on the University of Indonesia campus gained news coverate this January, religious leaders started backing Muhammad Nasir's statement that LGBT people should be banned from university campuses. They have called being LGBT indecent behavior and a mental illness. 

In fact, Indonesian government leaders have been trying to clear all LGBT representation from the media. In a statement that gained a lot of attention, information ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu instructed Facebook and WhatsApp to get rid of LGBT-related emojis. Even men who do not conform with expectations of masculinity are no longer allowed to appear on television. A 2008 Pornography Law has also been used to remove content about same-sex relationships from online blogs. In a legislative effort that resembles Russia's LGBT propaganda law, the Indonesian Government is doing its best to suprress LGBT representation and acceptance, calling homosexuality a matter of "national security." Mahfuz Siddiq, the chair of the House of Representatives Commission in Indonesia, has stated that homosexuality could damage "identity, culture and the faith of Indonesians." 

One program that has been affected by this emerging law because of their "threat" to national security is CONQ, a web series about gay men produced by three individuals in Indonesia. The series had a large following that extended beyond the LGBT community, and was the first platform of its kind in Indonesia. In 2015 they decided to stop video production and lay low because they were being threatened for spreading LGBT propaganda. 

GLAAD is also reaching out to Teguh Iman, one of the executive board members of Suara Kita, an organization that focuses on journalism and media, creating campaings for sexual equality and justice. Iman has collaborated with universities to organize public lectures with LGBT speakers and to oppose vilence against LGBT people. Suara Kita is also working on building allies across the country, especially minority religions and ethnic groups, who are also facing opposition. 

Melela is another organization that has been working to gain popular support for LGBT rights. Melela is a platform for LGBT people and allies to tell coming out stories as well as stories about what it's like having an LGBT family member or friend in Indonesia. 

Indonesia's LGBT community is at a crossroads, facing mounting pressure and opposition. The work of these organizations, and more, will be vital to ensure that the LGBT community remains safe, and builds accpeptance. We'll keep you updated on our ongoing work in Indonesia. 

GLAAD extends its thanks to Google and The Louis L. Borick Foundation for generously underwriting the Global Voices initiative.