Debates in the Muslim world regarding the LBGT community are rare, if not non-existent. However, Indonesia’s community has been raising its profile lately. With a legal system that does not criminalize homosexuality, the LBGT community may seem to face fewer challenges than communities in other countries.
However, even with the only Gay film festival in the Muslim world, the community still faces major challenges from religious groups in the country and negative social attitudes that are usually state-promoted. These sectors not only condemn the LGBT community’s private practices, but also all interactions with the public sphere. In addition, even when the state does not legally condemn same-sex relationships, this neither promotes tolerance, nor does it prevent provinces from applying Shari’ah law that is by definition anti-homosexual.
Lesbian women are some of the most affected members of the LBGT community in Indonesia. Lesbian women, as gay men, experience extreme social cohesion; however, they are usually more excluded from public life than men. In addition, they not only face the same challenges that heterosexual women face, but also suffer from sexuality-based stigmatization, discrimination, violence, etc.
Evelyn Blackwood explains that while gays and lesbians are usually considered to be “sick,” women suffer more religious and social stigmatization due to notions of femininity and motherhood. Although lesbian movements were able to flourish after the fall of Suharto’s regime, Islamic interpretations of femininity and female duties have driven lesbian women outside of the public sphere and have condemned them as “abnormal.”