Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males
  • Criminalises sexual activity between females
  • Criminalises the gender expression of trans people
  • Maintains discriminatory age of consent

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited explicitly in two provinces of Indonesia: Aceh, a conservative Muslim province which practices Shariah law, and South Sumatra, a Muslim-majority, but less conservative, province. Both provinces have introduced their criminalising laws since the turn of the twenty-first century. There are also some specific city and district level ordinances that criminalise certain areas within provinces, for example, Padang Panjang in West Sumatra. However, there is no national level law in Indonesia (i.e. penal code provision) which criminalises same-sex sexual activity.

At the federal level there is significant evidence of a 2008 ‘anti-pornography’ law being used to arrest and prosecute LGBT people. In 2022 the Indonesian parliament passed a new Penal Code criminalising sex outside of marriage. Although the new law is not set to come into effect until 2025, the provisions may be used to target LGBT people. In addition to potentially being captured by laws that criminalise same-sex activity, transgender people can be criminalised under the Penal Code 1999, Article 281 of which criminalises ‘offences against decency’. The maximum penalty under these laws is eight years’ imprisonment and 100 lashings.

There is significant evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people being frequently subject to arrest. In recent years there has been an ongoing crackdown against LGBT people, with multiple raids of bars, clubs, and saunas frequented by gay men, often followed by periods of arbitrary detention and eventual release, though several people have been prosecuted and convicted (usually under the anti-pornography law). Transgender people have also been subjected to arrests in recent years.

There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, including harassment, extortion, denial of basic rights and services, and familial pressure.



In January, two men, aged 27 and 29, received 77 lashes from a masked officer in front of a crowd in the capital Banda Aceh. The two men were sentenced for allegedly having sex together. This is believed to be the third time gay men have been caned in Aceh since Islamic laws outlawing homosexuality were introduced in 2014.


In September it was reported that, although same-sex sexual activity is not criminalised at the federal level, a special task force had been set up to investigate alleged ‘homosexual activity’. That month over fifty people were arrested in Jakarta on suspicion of organising a ‘gay party’. Nine were charged under the anti-pornography law. ILGA World reports that the nine men were sentenced to four to five years’ imprisonment each.


On 28 January, police raided several beauty salons in Aceh, arresting up to a dozen trans employees. They were accused of violating the province’s religious law. Some then had their hair forcibly shaved and were made to wear ‘male’ clothing and speak in ‘masculine’ voices in custody.

Also in January, police in West Java raided a private home and arrested five men under the anti-pornography law.


In April, fourteen men were arrested and forced to undergo HIV tests following a gathering at a hotel. In September, seven of the men were found guilty under the country’s anti-pornography law and sentenced to 18 to 30 months’ imprisonment.

In May, two gay men in Aceh were charged with violating Article 63 of Aceh’s Criminal Code, and were each publicly caned 83 times before a crowd of onlookers. The men were not allowed to speak with lawyers after being detained by Sharia Police, according to human rights organisations. This was the first instance in which individuals had been charged and publicly caned for homosexuality under Aceh’s 2014 law.

Also in May, police arrested more than 140 men in Jakarta in a raid on a gay sauna. The men were reportedly stripped naked for drug testing and police interrogation, and leaked photos appeared online. The majority were released the following day, however ten were prosecuted under local laws criminalising stripping.

In October, 58 people were arrested when police raided a popular gay club. Five employees of the nightclub were detained and threatened with charges under the anti-pornography law, but were ultimately released.

Discrimination and Violence


The US Department of State report found that LGBT advocacy groups were not permitted to formally register. Discrimination and violence against LGBT people were reported, with families often putting minors into therapy, confining them to their homes, or pressuring them to enter heterosexual marriages. Local reports documented the harassment, detention, and extortion of transgender people, who also faced discrimination in employment, healthcare, and registration of their gender identity.

In January, following the conviction of Reynhard Sinaga of 159 sexual offences against 48 men in the UK – described as “the most prolific rapist in British legal history” – an Indonesian mayor, Mohammad Idris, calledfor anti-LGBT raids and other measures to prevent the “spread of LGBT”. Amnesty International strongly condemned the mayor’s “vicious campaign”, asserting that “there can be no justification for these hateful raids.”

It was reported in February that during the previous three years, Indonesians increasingly turned to exorcisms in an effort to “cure” members of the LGBT community. In some cases, such practices have been government-sponsored. Between November and December 2019 alone, Padang police arrested 18 same-sex couples and forced them to undergo conversion exorcisms.


In December, it was reported that foreign teachers have been required to answer questions relating both to their sexual orientation and their views on LGBT issues, under a 2015 government regulation prohibiting international schools from hiring foreign teachers with “an indication of abnormal sexual behaviour or orientation.”


In February, Indonesia persuaded Google to pull 73 applications and shut down 169 websites related to the country’s LGBT community.

In October, Indonesian police arrested two men who allegedly operated a Facebook account to facilitate meet-ups for gay people and other sex-related services.

Although LGBT behaviour is wrong, they should still be treated with empathy so that they will change their deviant ways.

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Religious Affairs Minister, 2018


In May, Andalas University in West Sumatra asked prospective students to declare on a form that they are not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender before applying and enrolling at the institution.

In July, Anwar Abbas, a leader of Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organisation, Muhammadiyah, called for a boycott of Starbucks, saying that the international coffee chain’s pro-gay stance risks ruining the “religious and cultured” core of the Southeast Asian nation.

In December, Front Line Defenders released a report that included testimonies from dozens of human rights defenders who report that following a crackdown on LGBT rights in 2016 and amidst ongoing violent raids of LGBT gatherings, threats against community leaders are increasingly frequent, personal, and violent.


In one personal account of life in Indonesia, a man described being attacked in the street. Having gone to the police station he described being “treated like an animal”. Whilst his attackers were arrested and charged, they were given probation and a small fine.


Related Countries


Singapore criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.


Malaysia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of twenty years’ imprisonment and whipping.


Brunei criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death by stoning.

Local Organisations

Arus Pelangi

an organisation striving to change public attitudes towards LGBT people and advocating for LGBT equality.

Gaya Nusantara

local organisation working for the equality, equity and welfare of LGBT people.

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