A Bali-based LGBT pageant held its crowning ceremony for Mister and Miss Gaya Dewata (YGD) in secret last month following multiple online threats and opposition from the local Islamic governing council.
Bali is Indonesia’s and arguably the world’s most popular tourist destination. It’s majority Hindu population also makes it the most progressive island in the country and has largely been spared the crackdown on LGBT rights by the far right wing Islamic party currently in power.
It’s amid this political climate that the island celebrated its annual crowning of its LGBT kings and queens in secret last month. Members were told not to post anything on social media until well after the event which they did on their Facebook page.
The crowning of a Mister and Miss Gaya Dewata is the largest and most popular event of Yayasan Gaya Dewata (YGD), an NGO established in 1992 to provide health and educational services for the island’s LGBT community.
The Human Rights Watch recently reported that, “For three years Indonesia has been engulfed by a government-driven moral panic about gender and sexuality. Politicians, government officials, and state offices have issued anti-LGBT statements calling for criminalization of homosexuality, censorship of LGBT-related information, and other threats to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”
Harry Hexa, a gay finalist from Bandung, West Java, tried to find a silver lining in the ordeal. “It provided us with real-life experience for coping with discrimination,” he said, adding that during the quarantine period the finalists were given lectures on human rights and discrimination.” He told the Jakarta Times.
Hexa and Alena were declared Mister and Miss Gaya Dewata 2018.