While diverse sexual behaviours and gender identities were known in the Indonesian archipelago in previous times, it was not until the late 1960s that the LGBT movement started to coalesce, in the form of groups of transgender women – or waria, as they came to be known. Gay male and lesbian mobilization occurred later, in small groups around the country (HIV provided an impetus for more mobilization in the 1990s, including the formation of organizations in more locations). After dramatic changes in the Indonesia political system and government in 1998, the movement expanded with stronger national organization, formally funded programmes, and the use of human rights discourses to advocate for policy change at the national level. However, success can be described as modest overall, with a large number of organizations and individuals working to sustain only small changes, and without major improvement in either legislation, public policies or social acceptance.

The family policy of the Indonesian authorities, the social pressure to marry, and religion (87% of the country’s population is Muslim) have a negative impact on the acceptance of LGBT people in social contexts. Indonesia can be considered a relatively moderate and tolerant Muslim nation: LGBT organizations do exist and are able to organize public events. However, explicit discrimination and violent homophobia are carried out by some religious extremists. Additionally, subtle discrimination and marginalization occur in daily life among friends or family, as well as at work or school among the broader population. Despite the absence of national laws criminalizing LGBT persons, they are often harassed or abused (even by State authorities) and charged with counts such as vagrancy and public nuisance.

Explicit discrimination and violent homophobia are mainly carried out by religious extremists, while subtle discrimination and marginalization occur in daily life among friends or family, or at work or school among the broader population.

Most people do not know openly LGBT people, but transgender persons have higher visibility in the country. Although a female-to-male identity is less familiar for Indonesians, real-life transgender women are much better known than gay, lesbian or bisexual people. Non-conforming sexual orientation or behaviour can be often perceived as non-conforming gender expression or identity. In consequence, there is a lot of discrimination directed at transgender women, who face challenges with stable employment, prejudice, housing and identity cards, both in obtaining them and in that they do not indicate their chosen gender.

In the media, the Law Against Pornography and Pornoaction (2006) prohibits "…any writing or audio-visual presentation – including songs, poetry, films, paintings, and photographs that show or suggest sexual relations between persons of the same sex." Those in violation of the law could be fined or sentenced to prison for up to seven years. Despite this, the depiction of LGBT people in desexualized contexts is often visible in Indonesian media, especially in television: popular TV personalities, hosts, artists and celebrities have effeminate demeanors or are cross dressers, and this is quite common in Indonesian television shows. Recently, however, the national broadcasting commission emphasized a policy banning TV and radio programs that make LGBT behavior appear "normal".

The recent anti-LGBT trend in Indonesia is not restricted to the media and can be observed nationwide. The trend is influenced by a number of Indonesian politicians who have been vocal against the “proliferation of the LGBT movement”; recently introducing regressive measures including the banning of services directed at LGBT persons and the implementation of censorship on internet websites and media. As a result, there has been a spike in violent attacks against as well as the number of police arrests of LGBT persons. Currently, there are Bills being proposed for a ban on LGBT organizations on university campuses and LGBT “propaganda.” At the time of writing in 2016, a court in Indonesia is deliberating whether sex outside marriage should be made illegal, which would in turn render gay sexual relations illegal. A harsher anti-LGBT law is also under consideration.

Arus Pelangi aims to be a federation that unites LGBTI rights defenders in order to build awareness, empower and strengthen capacities of the most vulnerable LGBTI people. It aims to play an active role in policy reform to protect the rights of LGBTI people, and encourage public acceptance towards LGBTI people. The federation focuses on campaigning, advocacy, and education and has an important role in organizing several groups and communities across the country.
The oldest LGBT group still active, Gaya Nusantara was founded in West Java. Their activities focus on advocacy and research, as well as publication and education in human rights, sex, gender and sexuality, sexual health and wellbeing. They also gather relevant information and provide services to the LGBT community; currently maintaining a special outreach strategy targeting HIV/AIDS and other STIs, and providing education, prevention and support to the community.
A network of organizations and agencies that provide prevention, care, support and treatment related to sexual health and reproductive rights to the LGBTI community based in Indonesia. GWL-INA seeks to: improve access to information on the spread of STIs, HIV and AIDS; encourage access to comprehensive health services; facilitate access to the funding and technical support needed by the organizations that handle HIV/STIs programs in the country; and mobilize communities to respond to STI, HIV and AIDS in a comprehensive manner.
The Ardhanary Institute is a study center focused on conducting research, publishing and conducting advocacy of the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women in Indonesia. Established in Jakarta as a form of cooperation between various LBT women interest groups, the organization fights for equality of rights for LBT persons who have experienced depression as a result of the strong patriarchal culture in the country, “where women often feel helpless regarding their role and position in society.”
Suara Kita is an organization that focuses on journalism and media; creating campaigns for sexual equality and justice. They have collaborated with universities to organize public lectures with LGBT speakers and to oppose violence against LGBT people. Suara Kita is also working on building alliances across the country, especially with minority religions and ethnic groups who are also facing opposition.
Melela has been working to gain popular support for LGBT rights. It is a platform for LGBT people and allies to tell their coming out stories, as well as stories about what it's like having an LGBT family member or friend in Indonesia. They aim to increase the general public’s understanding of LGBT life in Indonesia, and to encourage members of the community to share their stories and prepare for the actual coming out moment in their lives.
The Organisasi Perubahan Sosial Indonesia is a national network of female, male and transgender sex workers. They also work with the government and other organizations and networks – for the purpose of HIV and STI prevention – on initiatives such as the National AIDS Commission and the Gay, Transgender and MSM Indonesia Network. They speak out about violence against sex workers, including from police, institutions, clients, and intimate partners. They oppose human rights abuses, including coercive education programming, mandatory testing, raids and forced rehabilitation of sex workers. It is estimated that around 81% of trans women in Indonesia are or have been engaged in sex work.
Needle and Bitch is the label of a DIY handmade crafts which support local collective needs since it stands autonomously without support from NGO’s or other funding. They make queer handmade crafts such as bags, pouches, note books, journals, bum bags, aprons, patches, tees, etc either with new or re-used materials (fabrics and papers).

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