The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Indonesia

By Vexen Crabtree 2018


#buddhism #christianity #confucianism #equality #freedom #hinduism #human_rights #Indonesia #islam #politics #smoking #tolerance

Republic of Indonesia

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Land Area1 811 570km21
Population244.8m (2011)2
Life Expectancy69.05yrs (2017)3
GNI$10 053 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesID, IDN, 3605
Internet Domain.id6
CurrencyRupiah (IDR)7

Indonesia is very poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world, and it has cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Indonesia does better than average in its Global Peace Index rating9 and in supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms10. In 2017 it made some limited steps to protect the rights of some of its most vulnerable people and released some political prisoners11. But unfortunately Indonesia gets most other things wrong. It does worse than average in fighting anti-semitic opinions12, eliminating modern slavery13, commentary from Human Rights Watch14, fighting corruption15, opposing gender inequality16, LGBT equality17 and in supporting press freedom18. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in its nominal commitment to Human Rights19. The United Nations made 58 recommendations on improvements that Indonesia could make, but they were rejected wholesale11. Indonesia does not accept the concept of freedom of religion. The state only permits six religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Confucianism - there is no legal way to be non-religious20. The country's blasphemy law makes it illegal to promote other faiths. In 2017, President Jokowi decreed the amendment of a law, enabling the government to fast-track the banning of groups it doesn't like11.

1. Politics and Freedom

#antisemitism #burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #freedom #human_development #human_rights #Indonesia #mass_media #peace #politics #slavery

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)12
Pos.Lower is better
81S. Korea53
World Avg36.8
Corruption (2012-2016)15
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score15
2New Zealand90.6
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)9
Pos.Lower is better9
2New Zealand1.24
65Bosnia & Herzegovina1.92
World Avg2.02

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)14
Pos.Higher is better
102Equatorial Guinea-7
World Avg-1.9
Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)19
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
177N. Korea7
178Sao Tome & Principe7
World Avg15.1
Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)10
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
74S. Africa74
75Papua New Guinea74
World Avg79.7

Press Freedom (2013)18
Pos.Lower is better18
141Congo, DR4166
World Avg3249
Slavery (2018)13
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims13
92Burkina Faso0.45
98Sierra Leone0.50
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory21. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends22. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life23. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves24.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery25. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity26. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.27. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi13, Eritrea13, Indonesia28) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery29.

Despite criticism from the United Nations, thousands of children continue to perform hazardous work on tobacco farms in Indonesia. They are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers, which can have lasting impacts on health and development; the government is content to commit to 'raising awareness' of the risk to children's health, rather than take any action11.

2. Gender Equality

#gender #Indonesia #misogyny #politics #women

Gender Inequality (2015)16
Pos.Lower is better16
107Dominican Rep.0.47
World Avg0.36

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

Year Women Can Vote30
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
58N. Korea1946
World Avg1930

Indonesia is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women.

Indonesia´s official Commission on Violence against Women reports that there are hundreds of discriminatory national and local regulations targeting women. They include local laws compelling women and girls to don the jilbab, or headscarf, in schools, government offices, and public spaces.

Indonesian female domestic workers in the Middle East continue to face abuse by employers, including long working hours, non-payment of salaries, and physical and sexual abuse. Indonesia´s ban on women migrating for domestic work in the Middle East, imposed in 2015, has led to an increase in irregular migration of women seeking such work, increasing the risk of abuse and exploitation.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #Indonesia #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)17
Pos.Higher is better
115Congo, (Brazzaville)5
119Ivory Coast1
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence31. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws32. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries31. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

Authorities in Indonesia targeted private gatherings and persecuted LGBT individuals throughout 2017, following on from the government's horrible anti-LGBT statements made throughout 2016. Being suspected of homosexuality is enough to justify house raids, the release of the suspects names to the media and a multitude of other abusive practices, including physical assault. Things seem to be getting worse; in Aceh two gay men were flogged, in accordance with the region's take on Shariah law.11.

4. Indonesia Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Indonesia

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
126Puerto Rico48.6
128Timor-Leste (E. Timor)48.1
134St Kitts & Nevis47.1
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#atheism #buddhism #christianity #confucianism #hinduism #humanism #indonesia #islam #religion_in_indonesia

Indonesia does not accept the concept of freedom of religion. The state only permits six religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Confucianism20 (with some exceptions for some 'native' beliefs). The country's terrible blasphemy law makes it illegal to promote other faiths. Non-religious folk are also forced into picking one of those religions on official forms - but, lying is itself illegal20. Therefore, there is no legal way to be non-religious in Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch's report on 2017 said the following about Indonesia:

. Religious minorities continue to face harassment, intimidation from government authorities, and threats of violence from militant Islamists. Authorities continue to arrest, prosecute, and imprison people under Indonesia´s abusive blasphemy law. [...]

In a landmark ruling in November, the Constitutional Court struck down a law prohibiting adherents of native faiths from listing their religion on official identification cards. The ruling will help protect adherents of more than 240 such religions from prosecution under Indonesia´s dangerously ambiguous blasphemy law.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

Freedom of Thought: The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)34, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Indonesia states:

Indonesia recognizes only six official religions - Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism - and requires its citizens to adhere to one of these. The country's blasphemy law makes it illegal to promote other faiths, or atheism. Article 156(a) of the country's criminal code also punishes "disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility" with up to five years in prison. Persons who do not identify with one of the six official religions, including people with no religion, continue to experience official discrimination. This discrimination occurs often in the context of civil registration of marriages and births and other situation involving family law.35

Official ID cards must list one of the six official religions35; therefore "atheism" or "Humanism" or "no religion" are not permitted options. Applicants for government jobs must also identify as belonging to one of the six official religions. To register an organization in Indonesia, the organizers must declare their allegiance to the Basic Ideology of the State (called Pancasila); the first principle of Pancasila is 'Belief in the one and only God'. That means no atheist group can legally register itself.

Cases of discrimination:

"In January 2012, Alexander Aan, an Indonesian civil servant in the province of West Sumatra, was arrested after being attacked by a mob of Muslim militants. The mob was reacting to statements Aan made on Facebook which criticized Islam and said he had left Islam and become an atheist. The police charged Aan on three separate counts: insulting religion (which has a maximum sentence of five years jail), the electronic transmission of defamatory comments (six years jail), and false reporting on an official form (six years jail). The charges of blasphemy and defamation related to his criticism of Islam on Facebook. The final charge [... was] based on the conflict between his atheist Facebook posts and his official registration as a Muslim - a registration he had to submit because Indonesians must identify with one of the six officially permitted religions. [...]

On June 14, 2012, a district court sentenced atheist Alexander Aan to two years and six months in prison for "spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity." Aan was also reportedly fined 100 million rupiah (US $10,600)."

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)34

In 2012 an Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan falsely said on an official form that he was a Muslim. He was imprisoned for this lie, but because Indonesia doesn´t recognize non-religious people and give an option for that on official forms, he in fact could not have told the truth. In practice, pillarization can fossilize old divisions in society and limit the freedom of unrecognized minorities.

"Secularism politics, religion, and freedom" by Andrew Copson (2017)20

Current edition: 2018 Dec 28
Parent page: Indonesia (Republic of Indonesia)

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#antisemitism #atheism #buddhism #burundi #christianity #confucianism #corruption #equality #eritrea #france #freedom #gender #hinduism #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #humanism #Indonesia #intolerance #islam #mass_media #misogyny #peace #politics #religion_in_indonesia #sexuality #slavery #smoking #tolerance #women

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

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(2014) ADL Global 100, Executive Summary. Accessed on on 2017 Jan 02. The numbers given are of those who state that racist stereotyped statements about Jews are true; they have to agree to 6 or more of the 11 statements to be counted. An example statements is "Jews are hated because of the way they behave". The data was collected from 53,100 interviews across 101 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza. The global average is 26%.

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Copson, Andrew
(2017) Secularism politics, religion, and freedom. An e-book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on


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