- In Front of the LawThe Production and Distribution of Boys' Love Dôjinshi in Indonesia
By the recession in the 1990s, Japan's social structure had changed from an economic superpower to a cool cultural country.1 In order to promote their new image as "a cool country," the Japanese government introduced a political strategy called "Cool Japan" in 2002, which has successfully boosted anime, manga, and video games exports.2 Since then, the anime and manga industries have become the face of Japan's popular culture. Not only have these art forms managed to spread globally but the subcultures of these cultural industries-such as dôjinshi comics and cosplay—have also successfully penetrated other countries' markets. Dôjinshi as a fan work, the parody of an original manga or anime work, motivates fans to imagine how the original story might be retold. This might be one reason why manga industries persist and are growing strong both in Japan and globally. One genre that had been growing exponentially from this subculture is a branch of the shôjo genre, a male homosexual romance subgenre known as "Boys' Love" (BL). With the rise in the number of fans for popular shônen works, such as the Captain Tsubasa and Gundam series, female fans began producing homosexual parodies of those series' male characters in sexual relationships.
As subcultures, both BL and dôjinshi amateur manga have been spreading rapidly to other countries. Other than its home country of Japan, the United States, and Europe are perhaps the key areas that have been prodigiously producing BL dôjinshi manga, merchandise, and events. It may also be because these parts of the world have been more open to homosexual relationships and even same-sex marriage. But, surprisingly, for some countries that openly reject the notions of homosexual relationships, either by their law or culture, this kind of market activity still manages to exist. Indonesia is one of these countries. Even if Indonesia is not an Islamic country, the majority of this country would agree that homosexuality is a sin. It does not help that the government and the media are framing LGBT people as abnormal and sexually addicted by focusing on their sexual activities.3 This opinion has been written [End Page 118] into the application of Law no. 44/2008 on Pornography, the purpose of which is to "prevent the development of pornography and sex commercialization in society."4 Unfortunately, pornography in this law defined as "indecent or sexual exploitation that violates moral norms in society,"5 a definition that could be interpreted in many ways. By using such an unreliable definition, there is a high risk that bias against the subject will interfere in the judgment of law. The misuses of this law can be seen in many cases where gay people in Indonesia have been arrested because of their sexuality and the stereotypes around it.6 Discrimination against LGBT subjects by using the law on pornography also extends to digital world. Guided by this law, the Ministry of Communication and Information proposed and executed the "Internet Healthy" program, in which they blocked many LGBT dating apps for smartphones, pressuring digital comic websites such as LINE Webtoon, Comica, and Ciayo to take down any works with an LGBT nuance, and blocked many websites such as Reddit, Vimeo, and Tumblr7 because of the unfiltered LGBT and pornographic content that they allegedly contain. In this harsh environment, it is surprising that BL dôjinshi managed to enter the market and actually develop in Indonesia.
The existence of BL in Indonesia has been noted by many researchers, but most were focused on the readers and the genre itself.8 Despite the increasing number of anime and manga convention events in Indonesia, which were also encouraging local artists to sell their dôjinshi works, there was little information about the local BL dôjinshi market and its distribution. Yamila Abraham, founder of the publishing company of Yaoi Press and a BL writer, has noticed the potential market for homoerotic and romance stories in Indonesia, but feels that creators must conceal themselves from the public for their own safety because of...