Stigma and discrimination: LGBTQ+

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Stigma and discrimination: LGBTQ+

Culture plays a big part in how one’s living in a society and this has been a hindrance for LGBTQ+ community living in Indonesia. There are variety of stigma against LGBTQ+ community which then followed with discrimination. Stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals may vary from social, economic, and religious positions in society.

The manifestation of stigma and discrimination also varies from how strong or low the expression of their sexual orientation and gender identity. People who express more of their gender-nonconforming appearance may experience stronger harassment, threat, violation, bullying and discrimination than those who gender-conforming. It is often expressed through how they dress, behave, speech intonation and other characteristics that fail to comply with the social norms of what men or women should be.

Below are some of the stigmas and discriminations the LGBTQ+ community often receive from different social scopes in Indonesia:

  • Family
    In Indonesia, most of the culture’s view is built upon the idea of heterosexual marriage to form a family (heteronormativity) which positions heterosexuality as “normal” and homosexuality as “abnormal”. It also shaped the stigma that LGBT people are “not normal” and that they need to be “put straight”. In some cases, LGBT people who decided to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity experienced a complete separation from their family. The separation also gives another difficulty of getting an identity card “Kartu Tanda Penduduk'' (KTP). Not having a KTP makes it harder to get a job and obtain public services like driving license and state-sponsored health insurance operated by “Badan Pengelola Jaminan Sosial” (BPJS).
  • Workplace
    Discrimination towards LGBTQ+ can also happen in workplace. Many transgender people experienced discrimination when it comes finding a job which often led to a despair and choose to be a sex worker by preforce. Not just the difficulty that LGBT individuals have to face in search for a job, but also the discrimination they receive during their employment. LGBT people in Indonesia may face a hard time getting access to employment, training and promotion, and even access to social security such as medical care, health insurance, pension entitlements and other benefits. However, Indonesia amended the 1945 Constitution to protect the right to employment, guarantee fair and appropriate remuneration, and treatment in an employment relationship. Other legal instrument such as The Human Rights Act also provides protective legal measures against discrimination for workers.
  • Religion
    Homosexuality is not illegal nor criminalized in Indonesia, but in areas that holds strong religious norms believe that homosexuality is a moral threat. Aceh as a semi-autonomous part of Indonesia that follows syariah or sharia law also believe that homosexuality is a bad influence for younger generation. A controversial news in Aceh back in 2016 when police found a transgender resident who worked at a salon, they publicly shamed the transgender people, shaved their hair and forced them to wear “masculine” clothes. Other stigma would say that LGBT people are being possessed by a demon that triggers a mental health disorder that results in LGBT behavior. Some people believe that these demons can be cleansed with religious rituals such as “ruqyah” which uses recitations of verses from the Quran.

Finding Support

Finding information and support about LGBTQ in Indonesia can be challenging. As many already know that LGBTQ+ community faces strong discrimination and being rejected by many in this country. Data from the Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection says that there are at least 3 millions lesbians, gay men, and transgender people in Indonesia. According Indonesian forum of LGBT there were 47 cases reported of abuse against gay individuals in 2013.

Coming out as LGBTQ+ can be tough, especially in Indonesia. Though family is the closest unit we have, there are possibilities that we might have to deal with when it comes to coming out as LGBTQ+. When you want to come out about your gender identity and sexual orientation, it is important that you feel safe and comfortable to do so. You can start by coming out to the people closest to you.

Since late 1960s, Indonesian LGBT formed the first advocacy called “Himpunan Wadam* Djakarta” (HIWAD) which is the association of transgender women. In Indonesia transgender people were commonly recognised and better known than lesbian, gay or bisexual people.  Later on 1985 a gay group from Yogyakarta established the “Persaudaraan Gay Yogyakarta” PGY (Yogyakarta Gay Fraternity) and changed its name in 1988 as “Indonesian Gay Society” (IGS). Since then there are more other LGBT people following the movement to establish more community.

Even though Indonesia still doesn’t have any legal law to support LGBT community from discrimination and criminal action, there are still organisations and communities that will give support to LGBT people in Indonesia. Finding support by joining a community can be therapeutic and might help to feel less lonely.

Here are some of the organisation and community to join or find support:

  • Komnas HAM (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia / National Commission for Human Rights)
  • Arus Pelangi (Non-Profit and Non-Governmental Organisation, national federation for LGBTQ in Indonesia and established in 2006)
  • LGBTQ Forum Indonesia (Indonesian LGBTQ Forum)
  • OutRight Action International (International LGBTQ Non-Governmental Organisation)

* Wadam : the term for “wanita Adam” or “Adam woman”


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