Days after a long-running Indonesian television comedy aired last month, its producers got a letter from the broadcast commission warning that a male character in the show was "dressed and behaving like a woman" and could violate broadcasting standards. "We evaluated the show...we immediately reminded our staff to be careful because we are minimizing LGBT content on our network," said Anita Wulandari Prasojo, head of marketing and public relations at Trans7, the private television station that aired the show "Opera van Java" last month. She may have to do more than that in the future. Indonesia's parliament is considering national legislation that would ban lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) content from TV screens by the end of the year.
When Shinta Ratri prays, like many devout Indonesian women she dons a mukena, a long flowing gown often embroidered with colourful and intricate designs. But she finds it hard to do so in most public mosques in this small city on the Indonesian island of Java. The reason, she says, is that she began life as a man. According to Shinta, transgender people in Indonesia find it hard to pray at ordinary mosques, where men and women are divided and they often elicit hostile reactions from other congregants. It was for this reason that Shinta helped found the Pondok Pesantren Waria al-Fatah, the world’s only Islamic boarding school for transgender people. “In the public mosque we made people uncomfortable. We needed a safe place for trans women to pray,” she says.