'Vagrants wearing make-up': Negotiating spaces on the streets of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Harriot Beazley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Since the start of the financial crisis in late 1997, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of children living and working on the streets of Indonesia, including a dramatic rise in street girls. All street children are marginalised by the state and mainstream society, and this is reflected in the marginality of the spaces they occupy in the streets. In Indonesia, street children are seen by mainstream society to be committing a social violation, as their very presence contradicts state ideological discourse on family values and ideas about public order. Such an offence justifies the 'cleaning up' of children from the streets, arrests, imprisonment and, in some extreme cases, torture. This paper seeks to explain how girls in particular suffer discrimination on the streets, and how their social position is doubly marginal to that of street boys. This is because they are seen to be actively violating the construction of femininity in mainstream discourse, where the street is 'no place for a girl', an ideology that street boys also adhere to. By examining the lives and experiences of a group of street girls, the paper describes how they are not passive victims of the male gaze, but survivors who actively reject the roles society expects of them. Their behaviour patterns are explained as survival mechanisms that are articulated through their style, income-earning activities and the production of street girl identities. The paper shows how street girls negotiate social and personal spaces that are different from those of boys, and how they have succeeded in creating their own gendered sense of place on the street. These socio-spatial patterns are explained as 'geographies of resistance', which are a response to the pervasive patriarchal discourse within Indonesian society, a society which believes that girls, in particular, should not be on the streets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1665-1683
Number of pages19
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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