This article was published on February 25th, 2020
Better cancel that trip to Bali, Betty. Because Indonesia is laying the smack down on queer people and it isn’t cute! While many nations are becoming more and more welcoming of LGBT people and the pink dollar, it looks like Indonesia is taking a step backward. What’s going on in Indonesia, in regard to their gay ban, and is it still safe for LGBT people to visit?
Indonesia has long been a predominantly conservative Muslim nation. But the island of Bali, mostly Hindu, also has a long-standing history of being a tourist destination for people around the world. While it’s never been legal there, same sex couples and queer people were accepted and tolerated as visitors and tourists to Bali. But recent laws being proposed in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, would put severe penalties and horrific conditions on gay people—visiting or otherwise.
A “family resilience” bill, proposed by members of the House of Representatives of Indonesia, defines homosexuality as a “deviance which poses a threat to families and requires LGBTQ people to report to authorities for rehabilitation, and their families to report LGBTIQ people to agencies handling ‘family resilience’”. Drafts of the law, seen as late as February 19, 2020 provide for the formation of a state run organization for “family resilience” that would deal with “family crises due to sexual deviation” through unspecified rehabilitation efforts.
Violence against LGBT people in Indonesia is on the rise over the last five years, and this law would only make the situation more dire. Although same-sex relations are not illegal in Indonesia on a federal level, Sharia law is in effect in the provinces of Aceh and West Sumatra, which bans same-sex relations altogether. Indonesia has a Pornography Act, often used to target LGBTQ people. 2018 saw the proposal of a federal law banning same sex relations outright.
Indonesia is no longer regarded as safe for LGBT couples and queer people should be advised to remain closeted about their sexual orientation upon visiting. While Indonesia is known for their incredibly friendly people, it is not advised at this moment to risk challenging imprisonment or worse.
Indonesia joins an unfortunately long line of countries seemingly falling all over themselves to criminalize and irradiate homosexuality altogether. Brunei, Nigeria, Iran, Chechnya, Gabon, have all intensified their ill treatment of LGBT people. Anti-gay legislation is pending in Egypt. Maybe the governments of these nations will change their tune once the pink dollar stops supporting the Indonesian economy. Bali, unfortunately, will have to wait until Indonesia can promise a better future for queer citizens and visitors.