Secret transgender pageant emblematic of LGBTI intolerance in Indonesia


Recent events in Indonesia illustrate the hostile conditions faced by members of the LGBTI community. A Miss Transgender pageant in Jakarta on 14th November proved a rallying call for LGBTI people but had to take place in total secrecy in order to circumvent the nationwide clampdown against sexual minorities. Activists were forced to disclose the location at the last minute out of fear for participants and attendees. CIVICUS Monitor contacts in Indonesia described the worsening situation:

‘The horizontal societal repression has continued to threaten other societal groups having different political ideologies; and identity preferences related to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-gender; and religious minorities.’

Anti-LGBTI comments by public officials run contrary the government's stated commitment to diversity and pluralism. Earlier this year a government spokesperson openly stated that there was no place for LGBTI people in Indonesia, a statement which has fuelled and legitimised persecution of sexual minorities. Despite recent calls from the Indonesian President Joko Widodo that the rights of LGBTI people should be protected, his comments are viewed as insufficient to stem the rising tide of intolerance sweeping across Indonesia.

Persecution of LGBTI communities has become worrying commonplace in Indonesia. Consistent attempts to marginalise members of the LGBTI community over the course of 2016 have included: barring gay dating apps and over 80 gay websites, banning 'effeminate' men from television and portraying members of the community as having a 'mental disorder' that can be 'cured'. On the 15th of October, a gay couple were arrested on the island of Suwalesi for posting a picture of them kissing on social media. While homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, the couple could be prosecuted under anti-pornography laws; a move that many LGBTI groups view as indicative of a worsening environment for LGBTI rights. The arrest of the gay couple also comes at a time when a movement is seeking to criminalise same-sex relationships is gaining momentum. 

Examples have also emerged of LGBTI people being openly discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Recently, on the 12th October, Indonesian authorities posted an advert for a Creative Youth Ambassador which discouraged members of the LGBTI community from applying. The advert read: 

'We require someone physically and mentally healthy, not involved in promiscuity and sexually deviant behaviour, including LGBT, which should be proven through a doctor’s certificate.'

The job advert has become emblematic of Indonesian authorities' intolerance towards sexual minorities and a disregard for international human rights commitments.  


Concerns have continued to grow over freedom of expression in Indonesia. Article 26 of the newly revised Law on Electronic Information Transaction (ITE) could curb press freedom if it was used together with Article 40 on content blocking. These provisions give the government powers to censor the spread of electronic information that contains prohibited content. Many fear these overbroad provisions could have a chilling affect on freedom of expression on the internet in Indonesia. 

Freedom of Assembly 

Eight hundred security personnel were deployed to Timika, Papua, to secure the region after a tribal conflict in Kwamki Narama district in early August. The ensuing riots led to three deaths and the burning of 17 houses, while over 300 people were displaced from the region. Clashes between local groups have flared up over a variety of issues and and often last for several days.