Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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The shifting discrimination to the LGBTIQ+ groups online: what happens to our national democracy?
Fitri Ayunisa, Abdullah Faqih

Last modified: 2022-06-06


In the midst of technological developments and the increasing intensity of public interaction in cyberspace, discrimination against LGBTIQ+ groups has also adopted new forms by utilizing online media. Online discrimination is formed in various kinds of hate comments, threats, and even report the social media account that targeted public figures and non-public LGBTIQ+ figures–including Ragil and Fred, Oscar Lawalata, Dena Rachman, and Amar Alfikar. Therefore, this paper wants to explore the phenomenon of online discrimination toward gender minority groups in Indonesian society and how it profoundly perpetuates by state and society intervention.

Knight (2016) argued that the state plays an important role in spreading narratives and discrimination towards the LGBTIQ+ as outlined in various policy regulations by various ministries. Hence, this issue believed to have emerged as the collapse of the New Order regime and the birth of democracy (Wijaya, 2018). The democracy accompanied by the development of technology has affected Indonesia with Islamic populism dominated by moral values regarding religious teachings (Mietzner, 2018). The morality, which consists of care and sanctity values, has influenced people to perceive the LGBTIQ+ as less human and engaging in prejudicial behavior, referring to the major heteronormative constructions (Monroe and Plant, 2019), so this makes them profoundly support discriminatory treatment and policies in public towards them. This paper aligns with Mietzner's finding (2018) that the internalization of morality among Indonesian sexual minority groups as a weakening process of democratic values makes Indonesia could not prevent an Islamist challenge from emerging from outside the political institutions.

Even though democracy has overtly made the LGBTIQ+ freer to advocate their rights in the public sphere, it also has resulted in the growth of negative sentiments, specifically done by religious fundamentalist groups (Oetomo in Knight, 2016). If a man found to have a relationship with the same sex, they are thus considered to have committed an immoral and abnormal must be fought publicly. As a result, the high number of offline persecutions against the LGBTIQ+ during 2006-2018 reached 1.850 people (Amnesty, 2021), also depict of how vulnerable sexual minority groups are visible by Indonesian society.

Interestingly, the state's involvement offline has also penetrated the screen realm by limiting the LGBTIQ+ movement. For example, the law enforcement authorities often use Law no. 44 of 2008 concerning Pornography as a justification for the persecution of LGBTIQ+ groups. In addition, the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kementerian Komunikasi dan Informatika Republik Indonesia, Kominfo) also once blocked CONQ since it contains education about HIV/AIDS and actively promotes the value of tolerance for gender diversity (Yulius, 2015). In 2019, Kominfo also blocked an Instagram account named Alpantuni, which actively uttered the dissagreement of discrimination against LGBTIQ+ groups in Indonesia (Evn, 2019).

Besides, this current situation seems to be in contrast to the era in the 1990s, where the existence of LGBTIQ+ is commonly welcomed in public spaces, for example, in comedy shows on television screens featuring transgender women (Boellstroff, 2005). Long before this period, the LGBTIQ+ group has shown their involvement in some religious traditions to community performing arts, illustrating how Indonesian society used to have high tolerance for gender and sexual diversity by involving them in our native culture (Hidayana, 2018).

Along with the development of social media, the discrimination shifted into censorship that is not only carried out by the state but also by internet users (called netizens). Referring to Joeckel and Wilhelm’s (2018) findings, the moral foundation brought online has  influenced the evaluation of gender-related topics, thus separating internet users into two major groups; conservative and liberal. While liberals exclusively focus on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, conservatives emphasize the three dimensions of in-group/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity (Graham, 2009; Joekel and Wilhelm, 2018). Conservatives who are strongly influenced by two dimensions have made them not consider discrimination a dangerous action. In fact, this form of discrimination belongs to the category of online gender-based violence (Kekerasan Berbasis Gender Online, KGBO), which has the potential to drown the LGBTIQ+ group into depression, have the suicidal thought, and limit their chance to obtain a safe space.

The expansion of online discrimination towards the LGBTIQ+ done by the internet users has reminded to the concept of village biopower by Stein (2007). This notion reveals how people suppose that they have the authority to regulate and supervise other people's bodies through various intermediaries, including social media. The implication of its surveillance thus makes targeted individuals, also the LGBTIQ+, powerless over their own body as becoming 'a non-individual subject'. Unfortunately, the notion establishes the kinship of shame that purposely made the ‘shame culture’, so that the LGBTIQ+ no longer argue about netizens' actions against them since the LGBTIQ+ are deemed different and deviant from the majority of heteronormative culture. In other words, the LGBTIQ+ are forced to be invisible and hide their visibilities publicly.

Indeed, the online realm has not shown a safe space for gender minority groups to express themselves as the discrimination targeting them is also increasingly carried by any parties. Nevertheless, the visibility of the LGBTIQ+ in some contexts is considered very important in showing their position as subjects among normative gender relations (Hegarty, 2017), also claiming their political position as part of the LGBTIQ+ community. Therefore, this paper shows that the expression of gender and sexuality, both offline and online, is a paradox as they need to present themselves and show their political position as a form of freedom of speech, referring to Article 29 paragraph 2 of 1945 and Article 18 No. 2 of 2005. However, their attempts to claim their identities are also accompanied by various discriminatory practices that increasingly marginalize their existence from various directions, both state and majority of Indonesian society.



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