Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but displaying same-sex relationships can receive a very harsh public backlash and harassment. In 2003 a national bill to criminalize homosexuality failed and since then no further attempt has been made to introduce such a law. However, the Aceh Province received the right from the Indonesian Government in 2002 to prohibit same-sex relations between Muslim residents.
In total 52 regions have enacted Sharia Law making it difficult for people to live as gay, lesbian or trans. Homosexuals are considered to be mentally handicapped – “cacat” – and are not protected by the law. Being a predominantly Muslim country (89% of citizens) there is little acceptance of LGBT people although the country as a whole does have a reputation for being a more tolerant and moderate nation of Islam.
The first gay rights organisation was formed in 1982 and has only recently started to make greater headway campaigning for recognition. They have faced strong and often violent backlash from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who in 2010 threatened to burn down venues hosting the Q! Film Festival, the largest queer film festival in Asia, however it still went ahead in five cities. The Q! Film Festival occurs annually between July and August.
Indonesia does have gay bars including Apollo Bar & Lounge located in the business district of Jakarta, a popular mixed dance club. Bali has a more vibrant gay scene in this largely Hindu community; Bali Joe is a cocktail bar that is gay-owned bringing a mix of clientele. As a Muslim country expect the gay nightlife to ground to a halt during Ramadan. When visiting Indonesia check out the amazing beaches, a thousand islands, remote temples, bustling side streets, and vibrant markets.