Indonesia’s LGBTQ {couples} concern Parliament will make their love a criminal offense


LGBTQ residents of Indonesia are apprehensive that legislators who’re engaged on an in depth revision of the nation’s prison code may make types of LGBTQ sexual exercise a prison offense.

Indonesian trans rights advocate Febby Damayanti meets with three trans ladies at their rented lodging in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Anindya Joediono picture courtesy of This Week in Asia)

Indonesia has no nationwide legislation in opposition to gay exercise however the nation is included on this website’s listing of 71 nations with anti-LGBTQ legal guidelines as a result of such legal guidelines are on the books in Aceh Province, South Sumatra Province and several other Indonesian cities.

Earlier this month, reported on potential adjustments in Indonesia’s prison code in an article titled “Indonesia’s LGBTQ group fears crackdown below authorized reforms”.  A modestly edited model of the article is reprinted beneath:

Indonesia’s LGBTQ group fears crackdown below authorized reforms

Mohammad Mahfud Mahmodin[, commonly known as Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating security affairs minister (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Indonesia’s lawmakers are working on reforming the country’s criminal code under a draft bill, known in the country by the acronym RKUHP. The reforms are an attempt to sweep out a colonial era criminal justice system, but there is concern the reforms will be used to make more types of  conduct illegal.

That is why LGBTQ rights activists are worried new legal standards could be used to penalize and persecute same-sex couples.

Same-sex couples in Indonesia cannot legally marry. The law states that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, as husband and wife. However, there is also no specific law prohibiting or penalizing a same-sex relationship between two consenting adults.

The community’s concerns come precisely because of the ambiguity.

“There is no LGBTQ wording in the RKUHP,” Indonesia’s coordinating security affairs minister, Mohammad Mahfud MD, said in a tweet. “But there are threats for offenses against decency and same-sex intercourse in certain situations and ways. Same as there is no word ‘thief’ in the criminal code, but there are acts of taking other people’s things unlawfully.”

Conservative Islamic lawmaker Amin Akram told DW by text message that his Prosperous Justice Party wants the bill ratified “immediately” and says there are plans to pass it by July 2022.

In 2019, Indonesian students protest firing of journalists over article about a lesbian relationship. (Apriadi Gunawan photo courtesy of Jakarta Post)

Why is the LGBTQ community concerned?

The tweet from Mahfud MD has raised concern within the LGBTQ community and among legal activists, even if LGBTQ people are not specifically mentioned in the bill.

Indonesian lawyer and public defender Ma’ruf Bajammal questioned the government’s commitment to combating discrimination and to protecting the human rights of citizens.

“The state should not criminalize a person only based on their sexual orientation,” Bajammal, who works for the legal non-profit organization Community Legal Aid, told DW.

Atang Irawan, a law lecturer at Pasundan University in West Java province, encouraged the government to conduct a transparent public discussion on the issue before the bill is ratified.

“For those who are against it, they are of the opinion that the state goes too deep into regulating morality. They think it is too much for the state to intervene with the private rights of its citizens,” Irawan told DW. That’s why further discussion is needed, he said.

Men hide their faces at a press conference in 2017 in Indonesia after being caught in a police raid on a gay sauna in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of Southeast Asia Globe)
Men hide their faces at a press conference in 2017 in Indonesia after being caught in a police raid on a gay sauna in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of Southeast Asia Globe)

Why is Indonesia voting on legal reform?

Indonesia has been trying to renovate its Dutch colonial era criminal code since the 1960s. The last attempt to ratify this particular RKUHP bill was in September 2019.

However that was postponed after massive protests broke out throughout Indonesia, mostly led by student groups.

The bill would have made “defaming” public figures, institutions and religion an offense. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country by population. It would also have prohibited premarital sex and included “morality” clauses.

According to a public version of the draft seen by DW, it is the proposed article in RKUHP on “fornication” that has raised concerns among local LGBTQ groups.

This proposed article said that anyone who commits “obscene acts against other people who are of the different or same sex” could be fined and face imprisonment from 18 months to nine years. The definition of “obscene” would apply if the act is conducted in public, forcibly with violence or threats of violence, or is published as pornographic content.

Conservative lawmaker Akram said sex between two same-sex single adults would be punishable under the bill if it was conducted in public.

“If [the sexual act] is carried out secretly, you can’t be prosecuted,” he added.

Merry, a trans lady in Surabaya, Indonesia, lives on revenue from her small eatery, supplemented by busking. (Anindya Joediono picture courtesy of This Week in Asia)

Rising intolerance in opposition to Indonesia’s LGBTQ group

Though Indonesia has historically embraced range and plenty of locals practise tolerance towards individuals with completely different sexual orientations if they’re discreet about it, intolerance in direction of the LGBTQ group has grown over the previous few years. [Conservative Muslim areas such as Aceh Province, governed by sharia law, are a prominent exception to that traditional tolerance.]

In 2016, the Indonesian Broadcasting Fee, a regulatory physique for native media, issued a regulation prohibiting all broadcasters from exhibiting males behaving in a female method, together with dressing in drag or sporting cosmetics. This disadvantaged many artists of revenue.

A current podcast by an Indonesian superstar, Deddy Corbuzier, stirred public anger on Twitter. Corbuzier interviewed a homosexual Indonesian man named Ragil Mahardika and his German husband, Frederik Vollert, about their life as a homosexual couple in Germany.

Quickly after, the hashtag #UnsubscribePodcastCorbuzier was trending on Twitter, main Corbuzier to take down the interview and challenge a public apology.

On Could 17, the Worldwide Day In opposition to Homophobia, the British embassy in Jakarta sparked controversy by elevating a rainbow flag. The Indonesian Ministry of Overseas Affairs referred to as the ambassador and requested the embassy employees to be conscious of the host nation’s tradition, native media reported.

Anti-LGBT protest in Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of AFP)
Anti-LGBT protest in Indonesia in 2018. (Picture courtesy of AFP)



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