Gay Sex Could Be Criminalised in Indonesia

Gay Sex Could Be Criminalised in Indonesia

One afternoon at a Balinese gym in Seminyak, I got bored and downloaded Grindr. I scrolled through the application, squirming at the sea of bicep muscles and tight underwear flooding my screen. The Grindr notifications began to chime rapidly with greetings, queries and the odd dick pic.

On my way out, the Balinese owner of the gym held his phone up to my face and asked, “Hey! Is this you?” I shuddered at the site of my Grindr profile beaming from his screen, replying with a shy and shaky, “Yes.” A group of his colleagues stood listening to our encounter, and I wished for a black cape to vanish into, like Dracula hiding from daylight.

The gym owner’s candidness was a sure sign that he was loud and proud about his gayness, and wholeheartedly accepted by his peers. This intrigued me – I tend to keep my Grindr escapades on the hush, even in western countries.

As I travelled more of Indonesia, visiting gay bars and chatting with the locals, I realised that being gay in Indonesia ain’t all that bad. At least, it could be worse. And surely as time goes on, the country will become more and more accepting of the LGBT community.

You can imagine my disenchantment when I heard that the Indonesian Constitutional Court is currently convening to try and make gay sex a crime, with Islamic activists insisting that the homosexual community causes moral degradation to society. Earlier this year, ministers and religious leaders went into attack mode, blocking websites that promoted acceptance and social support for the LGBT community while shutting down gay-friendly events.

Lobbyists are claiming that the “spread” of homosexuality (lol) is consequential of the legalisation of same sex marriage in the United States, failing to realise that homosexuality has existed since we were apes. Meanwhile, some Indonesian health experts propagandise that gay sex is triggering an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases – because, as we all know, straight people in Indonesia couldn’t possibly spread STIs. The decision lies in the hands of conservative members of the Constitutional Court – the old government – who generally support the ban.

Diego Christian, a life-long resident of Jakarta, is currently writing his third book on the LGBT community in Indonesia. He claims that, “I feel loved as a gay man in Indonesia and can be honest about my sexuality with everybody. But gay people are still threatened by extremist organisations like Front Pembala Islam and the Family Love Alliance. In some places, gay men are still seen as cursed, and are exiled from their villages. If gay sex is banned in Indonesia, with all apologies, this country is becoming blind.”

Jakarta boasts various gay clubs, saunas and events, and Indonesians are blending more with the LGBT community in metropolitan spaces like malls, restaurants and concerts. But, “Many Indonesians still view sexuality through close-minded religious lenses,” says Christian.

There is a common misconception that sexual liberation will naturally spread into more conservative parts of the world. But the amount of sex, nudism and, it has to be said, forms of feminism projected in western media, are still considered lewd in many countries. Rather than following the western model of hypersexualisation, many countries shy away from it, legislating against sexual imagery and infidelity.

Porn sites are blocked in Indonesia, sex outside of wedlock is punishable by caning, and a ban on gay sex might actually be passed in the coming weeks. Indonesia is still largely conservative. The gay community is seen as an added threat to the traditional family structure, and to the duty of procreation, which are major moral backbones of Indonesian culture.

In all fairness, hatred and bigotry should never be culturally accepted norms of modernity – especially not when directed at innocent people causing no harm to society or its people. Indonesia is confusing sexual freedom with immorality. There has been no rise in crime, sexual assault, or any other form of immorality since the alleged “spreading” of homosexuality. If there has been a spike in sexual liberation, people need to accept it. The LGBT community has always existed in Indonesia, but they are no longer hiding.

Indonesia could use some role models at the forefront of the gay community that the entire country can relate to and admire. If the LGBT community was fairly projected in Indonesian media, they might not be viewed as abnormal or taboo. But, “Gay people are readily made fun of on Indonesian television,” says Christian.

I can’t deny that there is a high level of promiscuity in the gay community – that announces itself when a dude sends me a dick pic on Grindr before introducing himself. Personally, I think dick pics are awesome, but I can see how a conservative Indo-Islamic family might interpret them differently.

Indonesia, and the entire world for that matter, needs to understand that being homosexual is not a choice, and is often influenced by genetics. I know for a fact that I was born gay, and have absolutely no say in which way I’m swingin’. Making gay sex illegal will not change anything, and will only cause suffering among people who cannot change who they truly are. If gay sex is completely consensual and enjoyed by all parties involved, what’s the problem? In the words of Salt n Pepa, “If I want to take a guy home with me tonight, it’s none of your business.”

Cover by Juan Garcia

In school, Zeke used to get by selling stolen porn magazines from the local newsagent. These days, he’s a writer – and gets paid far less than he did at age 14.