Valentine’s Day Gets No Love From These Protesters in Indonesia

Various groups believe the Day of Love is immoral and goes against Islamic teachings.
translated by Jade Poa
13 February 2020, 5:04am
valentines day protest indonesia muslim islam
Students in Aceh province protesting Valentine’s Day in 2018. Photo via CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP

This story is part of a wider editorial series. Coming Out and Falling In Love is about the queering of our relationships with others, and the self. This month, we look at Asian attitudes to sex and porn, dating in the digital era, experiences of LGBTQ communities, unconventional relationships and most importantly, self-love. Read similar stories here.

For some Indonesians, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with sex and little more. While the holiday has eased itself into the mainstream in recent years, some governments, police forces, and ordinary citizens have yet to embrace the yearly celebration of love.

In a letter circulated throughout schools in Bandung, Indonesia’s second-largest city, Hikmat Ginanjar, head of the Department of Education, issued a formal ban on any form of Valentine’s Day celebration.

“[Valentine’s Day] has no place in our culture. It’s incompatible with our religious values. We have sent out letters reminding primary and secondary students of this fact,” Cucu Saputra, Secretary of Bandung’s Department of Education, told local media.

Missing an opportunity to use Valentine’s Day to instead provide students with ample sex education, Saputra mentioned that the youth often celebrate the holiday by hosting alcohol-fueled sex parties. He then declared that Valentine’s Day need not be celebrated in Indonesia, because love should be celebrated every day.

Saputra also delegated the task of enforcing the Valentine’s Day ban to individual schools, leaving much open to interpretation.

While the Bandung government may be paranoid that students might be getting involved in wild orgies, the Makassar City Police urged convenience stores and pharmacies to halt the sale of condoms until after Valentine’s Day, or to require customers to present identification before purchasing them.

“Only adults and married couples should have access to condoms. Underage children who have the audacity to perform such an immoral act should be banned from purchasing condoms,” Iman Hud, head of Makassar Police, told local media.

Somehow equating holidays with “sex parties,” Makassar police also issued a similar warning to retailers this past New Year’s Eve.

A nationwide movement known as “Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran” (Indonesia Without Dating) is also calling for February 14 to be nationally recognised as an anti-dating holiday. The group, which has over 1 million followers on Instagram, advocates the idea that dating goes against Islamic teachings, and is an unnecessary step before marriage.

At a rally on February 9, supporters of the movement carried signs reading, "We support February 14 as Indonesia Without Dating Day," and "Erase dating from Indonesia."

Naturally, netizens had a field day with these Valentine’s Day protests. “Supporting Indonesia Without Dating is another way of saying, ‘No one wants me,’” one Twitter user wrote.