Population and society
With more than 240 million residents, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest Islamic country ever. 86% of the population is Muslim. Although freedom of worship is formally sanctioned by the Constitution, not all cults enjoy it: the confessions recognized by the government are Islamic, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian.
Indonesia today is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, where more than 700 languages and dialects are spoken. The official language is Bahasa Indonesia, a lingua franca used in the administrative and economic fields, as well as by the national media. For Indonesia society, please check homosociety.com.
Despite the strong internal diversity, the Indonesian population is endowed with a strong sense of national belonging that was mostly rooted in the years of the struggle for independence. The national slogan is ‘Unity in Diversity’. However, not all differences are accepted: the country finds itself having to face the independence forces of some of the smaller provinces, encouraged by the precedent of East Timor. In recent years, moreover, Indonesia has had to deal with radical Islamic groups like Darul Islam, and with terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiah. Although attacks by radical Islamic terrorist groups have declined, there are fears that the recent rise of the Islamic State will reinforce local groups. In fact, it is estimated that there are many Indonesians in the ranks of the IS in Syria and Iraq.
Among the foreign groups most present in Indonesia are the Chinese, who in some areas now have a monopoly on mercantile activities: this has contributed to triggering a strong anti-Chinese sentiment among the natives.
The population is concentrated in particular in the large cities of the island of Java, which is one of the most populous areas in the world. Furthermore, the urbanization process started a few years ago is growing. The phenomenon has fueled the growth of crumbling slums on the outskirts of large cities.
The improvement in sanitation conditions in the country in recent years has reduced infant mortality and raised the average length of life. However, despite the development of a satisfactory system of hospitals and counseling centers, some diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, remain widespread. Indonesia is one of the Asian countries where the HIV virusit is transmitted with greater speed. There are numerous factors that expose the country to such a threat. In particular, the high prevalence of the sex trade (it is estimated that at least ten million people make use of sex workers every year) and the extremely limited knowledge of the disease by the population have a particular impact. The social stigma and discriminatory episodes to which those who contract the virus are subjected push many to try to live with HIV by hiding their conditions and therefore giving up the necessary medical treatment. In order to prevent the spread of the epidemic and give support to the sick, the Indonesian government has created the National Commission on HIV, whose budget it has progressively increased.
In recent years, the government has also tried to curb the country’s population growth by introducing a birth control program. The measures adopted have somewhat reduced the annual rate of increase, but for a large part of the Muslim population these are unacceptable impositions.
Freedom and rights
In recent years, much attention has been paid to the issue of human rights in Indonesia. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly denounced the violations perpetrated by the police with the consent of the government. Among the main problems are discrimination and violence against religious minorities, especially against Ahmadiyah, Baha’is, Christians and Shiites. Added to this are the extremely critical conditions in which the prison system finds itself, corruption in the judicial system, limitations on freedom of expression. A large proportion of the abuse cases under review refer to the use of violence and torture by the police. Furthermore, the provinces of Papua and West Papua are subjected to a regime of militarization, which is at the origin of a vast series of human rights violations.