Indonesia: “Effeminate” men banned from tv

15 March 2016

Didik Nini Towok

According to a letter issued by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission on 23 February 2016, male actors have been forbidden from behaving and dressing up as women on local tv, Indonesian news portal Jakarta Globe reported on 24 February 2016.

The commission stated that the letter was circulated as a reminder of the 2012 Broadcasting Programme Standards and the 2012 Broadcasting Behaviour Reference in reaction to complaints received concerning a public fear of such actors’ behaviour influencing young viewers. The 2012 standards stipulate various guidelines on behaviour for actors and orders broadcasting and production houses to conform to the country’s religious and cultural norms.

Amir Effendi Siregar, chairman of the Media Regulator and Regulation Observer, called the stipulations “not specific enough and over the top”, and reminded the commission that they must rather be in line with the 2002 Broadcasting Law and guidelines that guarantee freedom of expression, reported The Jakarta Post on 1 March 2016.

Siregar also said the stipulations “forced” certain groups of people, referring to the LGBT community, into a corner, and questioned what this renewed focus on effeminate men on tv would mean for the performers and performances deeply rooted in Indonesian art and culture that feature men dressing up and acting like women.

This comes after the commission made an announcement earlier in February 2016 that it discourages tv and radio stations from broadcasting content that portrayed LGBT behaviour as normal, reported The Guardian on 22 February 2016.

The letter listed seven rules of behaviour that a male tv actor or host needs to follow, including not dressing as a woman, not wearing feminine make-up, not to employ overtly feminine body language – such as how the actor walks, sits or moves his hands – not to speak like a woman, or call a man by a woman’s name, or use words, phrases or expressions that are commonly associated with women.

According to a report from the Asia Divison of Human Rights Watch published on 16 March 2016, the new initiativ by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission reflects a increasingly hostile environment for LGBT people in Indonesia. Since January 2016, numerous government officials have demeaned and threatened Indonesia’s LGBT population and Indonesia’s mainstream Sunni Muslim organisations have abetted this rise in anti-LGBT sentiment.

Photo is a screen grab from YouTube of famous transgender Indonesian master dancer Didik Nini Towok, renowned for his impersonations of female characters and skill in performing traditional Indonesian dances


» Human Rights Watch / The Conversation – 16 March 2016:
What’s behind the Indonesian president’s troubling silence on LGBT persecution?

» The Jakarta Post – 1 March 2016:
Lawmaker supports broadcasting commission’s prohibition of “feminine men”

» The Jakarta Post – 1 March 2016:
Broadcasting commission chided for prohibiting “feminine men”

» Jakarta Globe – 24 February 2016:
Male actors not allowed to show effeminate behaviour on screen, says broadcasting body

» The Guardian – 22 February 2016:
Transgenderism is a mental disorder, says Indonesian psychiatric body

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