Lesbian and gay organising in Indonesia
By Orie Nalcagawa
SYDNEY — Indonesian society has become more accepting of homosexuality since the fall of former president Suharto, a leading Indonesian gay activist said on February 19.
Speaking at the Resistance Centre, Dr Dede Oetomo, coordinator of the Indonesian gay rights organisation Gaya Nusantara, said that under the Suharto regime people could not speak openly about homosexuality. There are now 21 gay organisations in Indonesia, he added.
The Indonesian government had prohibited homosexual groups, but allowed organisations campaigning on AIDS-related issues. In 1982, the first gay organisation was launched by warias to appeal for rights and recognition [waria is a contraction of wanita (woman) and pria (man)].
Oetomo mentioned that Indonesian's ruling party, Golkar, had formed an organisation of warias in 1994. "It organised warias all over the country. The most cynical announcement was that you had to pay 5 million rupiah ($980) to be recognised", he said.
Oetomo emphasised that there is still discrimination against homosexual and transgender people in Indonesia, but since the fall of Suharto, gay and lesbian organisations have been more active. The younger generations are opened-minded and talk freely about these issues, he added.