Pride Week spotlight: Artistic freedom in LGBTI communities

13 August 2019
In 2019, LGBTI artists and art continue to be at greater risk when it comes to expressing themselves artistically.
Image: Freemuse’s infographic from The State of Artistic Freedom 2019: Whose Narratives Count?


In 2019, LGBTI artists and art continue to be at greater risk when it comes to expressing themselves artistically. These risks may vary from death threats to censorship and are largely due to reduplications of indecency or morality. Freemuse, therefore, still records and reports on the LGBTI artistic community being targeted and violated.

An official of the Kosovo Ministry of Justice, Xheladin Krasniqi, called for the direct murder of the 55 shades of gay theatre production team in February 2019, reported Qendra Multimedia. The play in question is a comedy focusing on LGBTI politics in the Balkans. Xheladin Krasniqi was arrested on 14 February 2019.

In March 2019, Russian authorities banned the youth arts festival Tsvet Shafrana (The Color of Saffron) after anti-extremism police interrogated the festival’s director Yulia Tsvetkova and teenage actors over alleged “gay propaganda” in a play called Blue and Pink. According to Human Rights Watch, the Russian “gay propaganda” law, which came to power in June 2013, bans the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors”. The festival was still held behind closed doors and filmed, which you can watch below.

In the same month, a student news website published a fictional story written by Yael Stefany Sinaga about a woman expressing her love for another woman. North Sumatra University officials later order the news operations to shut down after the story went viral online.

The story Semua Menolak Kehadiran Diriku di Dekatnya (Everyone Refuses My Presence Near Her), was published on Suara USU’s (USU News) website on 12 March 2019 and promoted on their Instagram account on 18 March 2019.

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Tanggal 12 Maret 2019, SUARA USU menerbitkan cerpen berjudul “Ketika Semua Menolak Kehadiran Diriku di Dekatnya” di situs Tanggal 18 Maret 2019, cerpen tersebut dipromosikan di media sosial SUARA USU dan mengundang beragam reaksi. Tanggal 19 Maret, pengurus SUARA USU dipanggil pihak rektorat USU untuk dimintai klarifikasi. Pada kesempatan tersebut, pihak rektorat juga meminta SUARA USU menarik cerpen tersebut karena dianggap terlalu vulgar dan mempromosikan LGBT. Jika tidak, pihak rektorat mengancam akan mencabut perizinan SUARA USU. Namun, SUARA USU memutuskan tak menarik cerpen tersebut karena isi konten tak bermaksud mengkampanyekan orientasi seksual apapun melainkan ingin menentang aksi diskriminasi terhadap kaum minoritas. Pun, cerpen tersebut merupakan karya sastra yang murni fiksi. Akun Instagram SUARA USU banyak di-report sehingga tidak dapat mengunggah apapun untuk beberapa saat. Pun, agar tak menimbulkan kesalahpahaman akibat keterangan unggahan promosi yang hanya sepenggal, akhirnya SUARA USU mengarsipkan unggahan promosi di seluruh media sosial. Tanggal 20 Maret, jasa penyedia hosting situs, Sanger Production, memutuskan kerja sama secara sepihak sehingga menyebabkan disuspensi. Sanger Production beralasan tak ingin mewadahi situs yang berisi unsur pornografi dan LGBT. Tanggal 21 Maret, situs menerbitkan berita mengenai disuspensinya, berjudul “Ketika Situs Persma Suara USU disuspensi karena ‘Cerpen LGBT’”. Tak lama setelahnya, situs juga menerbitkan berita berjudul “Unggah Cerpen Bertema LGBT, Media Suara USU Terancam Dibubarkan”. Dalam berita Tempo, Rektor USU Runtung Sitepu mengatakan akan mencabut perizinan SUARA USU. Namun, hingga kini pihak rektorat belum ada menghubungi pengurus SUARA USU terkait hal tersebut. Pun, Runtung juga mengakui bahwa pihak rektorat yang mensuspensi situs Padahal, Sanger Production merupakan pihak ketiga yang tak memiliki hubungan dengan rektorat USU. Hanya saja, pemilik Sanger Production memiliki kerjasama dengan USU Student Enterpreneur Club (Sebelumnya ditulis "Student Spouses Club"). #KamiBersamaSUARAUSU #PersMaBebasBerekspresi

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On 25 March 2019, USU President Runtung Sitepu claimed that the short story contained “pornography” and promoted homosexuality. Sitepu further added that it contradicted the campus’ values and demanded the removal of the story from the website.

The Suara USU website was suspended by its server provider, but they switched to another web provider two days later. Suara USU republished all their content including the story which is still available to read here.

Discrimination and intimidation against minorities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people is widely spread in Indonesia.

The movie Rocketman, about the life of artist Elton John, has been censored in Samoa in May 2019 because of the appearance of LGBTI and drug scenes. In a statement, Apollo Cinemas Samoa, located in Apia, states that the cinema has been forced to cancel the screening “due to problems of censorship.” Samoa is a Christian country which has consistently banned LGBTI-related content, as well as anything that has been deemed immoral.

In 2018, LGBTI artists and communities had their artistic freedom violated for content deemed indecent or obscene, content that touches on LGBTI issues or content which has been created by LGBTI people. It is still a case for the situation of LGBTI artists in 2019. Freemuse stands by the LGBTI artists, communities and their right to the freedom of artistic expression and will continue to monitor and report on the cases of violations. For the full chapter about LGBTI artists and communities, read LGBTI Expression Remains Vulnerable in The State of Artistic Freedom 2019: Whose Narratives Count?

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