Right now, Indonesia is one of the most difficult places to be an LGBT person: a recent Pew Research poll revealed that 93 percent of Indonesians support rejecting homosexuals; the Indonesian Psychiatrists Association recently classified LGBT identity as a mental disorder; the country’s Technology, Research and Higher Education Minister suggested barring LGBT people from university campuses and the country’s defense minister considers LGBTQ people a security risk; cities have begun passing anti-LGBT ordinances forbidding companies from hiring LGBT people or forcing LGBT people into conversion therapy — in one city, LGBT people constantly face harassment, arrests and whippings for living openly as an LGBT person.
Thankfully, Arus Pelangi (which means “Rainbow Flow” ) — Indonesia’s national queer rights organization — is here to help. They’ve set up a safehouse in Jakarta for human rights defenders and provide other emergency services to queer Indonesians in need. Unfortunately this work, particularly without any governmental support, is expensive. To that end, the charitable organization Alturi has launched a donation drive with the help of Human Rights Watch and Outright Action International.
Before partnering with Alturi, Arus Pelangi would have run out of funds at the end of May. Thankfully, with this help, they’ve been able to keep the lights on. The goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of 2016. The money will fund the safehouse and emergency services including a national hotline. The money will also fund awareness campaigns like “You Are Not Alone.”
Arus Pelangi was founded in 2006 by Yuli Rustinawati. The organization fights for gender equality, and against violence and discrimination. Though they’re independent and nonpartisan, Arus Pelangi does work to influence Indonesia’s political parties on queer issues — their goal is full equality for LGBTQ people.
While Arus Pelangi’s work focuses in four main directions — advocacy, education, organization and public relations campaigns — the bulk of their efforts go to advocacy on the local and state levels. This lets the organization work as a conduit between the LGBTQ community and the Parliament.
Unfortunately, Arus Pelangi and other queer organizations have faced a difficult battle in the media. When the Indonesian Child Protection Commission repeated the lie that LGBTQ activists are involved with child pornography, the Minister of Information called for the shutdown of the Arus Pelangi website. Luckily, Arus Pelangi faced no legal action — most likely because there was nothing objectionable on the site.
It’s not all bad news, though. When the United States legalized same-sex marriage last year, Indonesians started to talk about gay rights. As fellow activist, Dédé Oetomo of GAYa NUSANTARA, said: “When the United States sneezes, the world shakes. The (U.S.) Supreme Court decision shocked conservative politicians.” Oetomo points out that religious political parties throughout Indonesia suffered losses in the elections after the Supreme Court ruling.
While things might be slowly changing for the better in Indonesia, Arus Pelangi still needs help supporting queer Indonesians.
(Featured image via Arus Pelangi/You Are Not Alone campaign.)