June 18, 2013 in General
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch East Indies Company arose as the Netherlands established and then expanded a mercantile and colonial empire in what is now Indonesia. At the time that their colonial expansion began, the Netherlands were still under conservative Calvinist control, which meant that “sodomy” (any non-procreative sexual activity, which meant gay sex in this requisite instance) was illegal and subject to capital punishment.
Take the case of Joost Schouten (c1600-1644)- a capable colonial trader, administrator, diplomat and courtier, but who, despite his services to his country, was tried and executed in July 1644 for consensual gay sex by Dutch colonial authorities.
After the Dutch East Indies Company was established in 1602, Dutch mercantile and colonial activity grew apace in what is today Indonesia. The colonists and merchants were mostly male, as it proved difficult for other than previously married women to settle on the colonial frontier of the time. This meant cross-cultural marriages were frequent, as well as occassional enterprising Dutch sex workers.
Fleeing Dutch homeland persecution, the Dutch East Indies Company also proved a sanctuary as long as the gay men in question remained discrete, given the considerable attractions of this male-only environment.
Schouten was born in the Netherlands and emigrated to the Dutch East Indies in 1622. He became involved in manufacturing and trade work in a Dutch factory enclave in Attahaya, Siam (Thailand) and became a secretary to Dutch diplomat and envoy Willem Janssen as the latter embarked on a trade and reconnaissance visit to Japan in 1624. Back in Siam in 1633, he provided assistance to the King of Siam in diplomatic negotiations in that year, enabling further trade concessions and expansion of factory space as a result of its success. By 1640, he was back in Batavia, serving on the elite Dutch East Indies Company “Council of the Indies”.
All of this came to an abrupt end in July 1644, after a disgruntled male shipmate accused Schouten of having made a pass at him. As a consequence, Schouten was tried and executed at that time, burnt at the stake, while two of his male sexual partners were drowned.
Peter Murrell: “Sin and Sodomy in the Dutch East Indies” History Today: 63:3: July 2013: 10-17.
Peter Boomgaard: “Male Male Sex, Bestiality and Incest in the Early Modern Indonesian Archipelago: Perceptions and Penalties” in: Raquel Meyes and Will Clarence-Smith (ed)Â Sexual Diversity in Asia:c600-1954: Â Routledge: 2012