The unfulfilled promise of democracy: lesbian and gay activism in Indonesia

Sharyn Davies Davies, Hendri Wijaya

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


This chapter examines the transformation of activism for lesbian and gay rights from an understated, but relatively secure, position in the heterosexist context of the New Order to a much more visible, but also vulnerable, movement. Lesbian and gay activists believed that democracy would improve their capacity to move beyond demands for inclusion and equal treatment to demands for acceptance, which initially proved to be the case. But democracy also created space for homophobic forces intent on eradicating public expressions of homosexual or queer identity. One reaction to this hostility—which reached the highest levels of government in 2016—was to retreat to the “safer” forms of activism characteristic of the New Order. As this chapter demonstrates, however, activists have also responded by using digital media platforms to establish formal and informal networks and by reaching out to international organizations and to other Indonesian social movements with intersecting concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationActivists in Transition
Subtitle of host publicationProgressive Politics in Democratic Indonesia
EditorsThushara Dibley, Michele Ford
Place of PublicationIthaca New York USA
PublisherCornell University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781501742491, 9781501748301, 9781501742477
ISBN (Print)9781501742477, 9781501742484
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • lesbian activism
  • gay activism
  • queer identity
  • homosexuality
  • homophobia
  • lesbian rights
  • gay rights
  • digital media

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