For those who have just joined us, a relatively small but very vocal and increasingly violent and confident minority are trying to pass an exceptionally restrictive "anti-porn" law with definitions of pornography and "pornoaksi" so vague that will serve no purpose other than legitimising the violent and illegal actions of certain extremist groups (Front Pembela Islam, and recently Forum Betawi Rempung, among others) including hassling women for walking unescorted after dark and accusing them of being prostitutes, stoning the offices of Playboy Indonesia, and generally resorting to thuggery and intimidation to get their way.
What they don't realise, or maybe they do and the conspiracy theories are true, is passing laws like this which are supposed to "protect women and children and protect the moral health of the nation" will oppress those people and effectively tear the country apart.
I'm no expert in politics or social theory but, more than anything else in the last 5 years or so, I feel that this is a watershed in Indonesia's development as a nation. Anyone with a vague knowledge of Indonesian issues knows that Indonesia is having some national cohesion problems at the moment, much of these stem from a feeling of resentment at the perceived dominance that the Javanese and increasingly, the Sumatrans have over "Indonesian Culture". Regional languages and customs are dying out, transmigrants from Java are seen as invading regional areas (sometimes with disastrous consequences, Madurese in Kalimantan, case in point), and more and more societal and moral norms decided in Java are being forced on people who could care less that the state sanctioned religions that they have to choose from don't include Wektu Telu, their particular brand of Islam, or whatever. For some bureaucrat in Jakarta to decide that from now on, a good percentage of Papuans are breaking the law by wearing what they've been wearing every day for most of their lives, can't do anything but stoke the fires of independence that they've been trying to put out for the best part of 4 decades. That's not to mention Bali, or other regions dependant on tourism for their way of life.
So yeah... In opposition to the RUU APP (R-something Undang-Undang Anti Pornografi dan Pornoaksi), a committee of concerned individuals thought they'd put on a parade to oppose it.
At first, I was a little hesitant to head down there, I mean, the FPI and other fundamentalist organisations already see the evil foreigners as paragons of sin looking to corrupt the innocent youngsters with sex, drugs and liberal thought at any opportunity. For me to be wandering around actually joining in any protesting would probably do more harm than good. Also, it's not really my fight. As much as I want to see Indonesia develop into a cohesive, successful bastion of democracy in South-East Asia, it's for the people of Indonesia to make that happen. Not me. So I went down to observe.
My limited experience with these sorts of protests in the West normally amount to mass fornication in the streets unlikely to convince anyone who wasn't a rabid supporter in the first place, and likely to alienate anyone on the borderline. As my buddy Dave put it "well, I wasn't sure about the homosexual lifestyle before, but that fat, hairy guy with the cock-ring and biker boots makes a good point".
Fortunately (with the possible exception of the dude front and center in the photo above, zoom in if you can't read what's on his t-shirt), this wasn't anything like that at all.
The theme of the parade (which I prefer to refer to it as, rather than a protest) was No to Zero Culture, and that's exactly what it was. Instead of thousands of angry young men running around trashing pot plants and causing mischief, this was a true celebration of the wonderful diversity of culture that Indonesia has to offer that will be threatened by this ridiculous law.
There were literally tens of thousands of people in attendance, from trucks full of Waria (Wanita/Pria - Woman/Man - a sort of Transexual/Transvestite catchall), to trucks full of guys from Aceh playing traditional Gayo music, to hundreds of old women wearing jilbabs, to a truck full of guys with dreadlocks smeared in paint (I don't know either).
The whole event culminated in a big gathering at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout where a stage was set up for different groups to give cultural performances. We had some dances, some music, a pretentious poet, and last, but certainly not least, Inul (the one who is most often cited as the reason the bill is needed. For more information on her check out this article from TIME magazine)..
While I was overcome with joy to finally see Inul in the flesh, it is with heavy heart that I report that I was unable to get a photo with her despite hanging around for half an hour while she was hassled by TV cameras... Very sad.
Anyway, here's to hoping that people understand what's at stake here, and get active.