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Homophobia in Indonesia

Is the recent wave of homophobia in Indonesia unexpected?

Were the reports on Indonesia’s alleged LGBT friendliness too optimistic? Join Saskia Wieringa from the University of Amsterdam to discuss and reflect upon the recent wave of homophobia in Indonesia. 

When: 5.30–6.30pm Tuesday 25 September

Where: Quadrangle History Room, S223, University of Sydney

Indonesia has long been known as a relatively LGBT friendly country. This is particularly due to the wide presence of MTF trans people, usually known as waria (from wanita-pria, woman-man). Consensual homosexuality among adults has never been criminalized in Indonesia. However since late 2015 a campaign of virulent homophobia has shattered the image of Indonesia as a country tolerating LGBT people. Tradition, morality and religion are invoked to ‘prove’ that same-sex relations and transgender practices are alien to the country.

This seminar focuses on the political and religious contexts in which we can understand rising homophobia in Indonesia. The present situation can be understood as a second sexual moral panic in Indonesia’s modern history—the first being the campaign of sexual slander that helped incite militias to slaughter their neighbours after the 1 October 1965 actions of the 30 September group. In today’s age the panic is created in the context of electoral politics, and the rise of hardliner Muslim militias.

In her presentation, Emeritus Professor Saskia E. Wieringa will first discuss some historical instances of transgender practices that point to a wider acceptance of certain transgender people in the country before turning to the underlying question: were the reports on Indonesia’s alleged LGBT friendliness too optimistic?  

This presentation will be based on Wieringa’s earlier works on postcolonial amnesia, heteronormativity in Asia, and passionate aesthetics.

About the speaker

Saskia E. Wieringa is Emeritus Professor at the University of Amsterdam. Since the late 1970s she has done research on women’s movements, sexual politics and same-sex relations in many parts of the world, particularly in Indonesia. She chairs the Foundation International People's Tribunal on the 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia and co-organised the Tribunal on that topic, held in November 2015.  She has written and (co-) edited more than 30 books and over 200 articles. Saskia Wieringa received various awards for her scholarly work. Her recent research projects focus on sexual relations in historical perspective in Indonesia  and on the post-1965 violence in East Java.