March 2009 – BBC
In pictures: Indonesia’s waria
Text/Images: by Lucy Williamson
It is lunchtime in one of Yogyakarta’s bustling street markets. And Vera and her friends are starting work. They wriggle their way through the stalls, rattling home-made instruments and singing songs. The essentials for turning a healthy profit: skimpy clothes, lots of lipstick and a big dollop of attitude. Vera is the tallest among them. She says she knew she was female long before she started wearing make-up, despite being – biologically – a man.
Fear and curiosity
Vera and her friends are part of a group known in Indonesia as waria – the word comes from the Indonesian word "wanita" meaning woman, and "pria" meaning man. They make a living by playing off the reactions of their customers: fear, curiosity, liberation. Some stall-holders dance along with them; others turn away in disgust. One young boy watches them pass, open-mouthed, his meal dropping unnoticed into his lap.
Many waria are Muslim, but there aren’t many mosques or prayer schools where they feel comfortable praying as women. And so they attend a Koran school specially set up for waria. Maryani, pictured, is the school’s founder. She’s transgender herself, and said she wanted a place where people like her could gather and pray freely. "Our immediate neighbours have been very accepting but there are those in the wider Muslim community here who think we’re sinful."
‘Human or animal?’
Vera (right) is a regular. She comes to the tiny house with her friends to pray and learn the Koran, but also just to hang out, gossip, watch television and eat the snacks Maryani cooks up. She likes it because there’s no pressure to be something they are not. "I’ve had people say ‘Is that a human or an animal?’" she says. "And I’ve run into people who – in the name of God – are violent." Waria might be accepted as street musicians, but in any other context, discrimination remains rife.
But at more traditional Koran schools, feelings about waria range from acceptance to outright rejection. At this nearby school, boys and girls are strictly segregated – the way it should be, the imam tells me. "In Islam, there are separate rules for men and women, so they can’t be mixed. There are only two gender identities in Islam – men and women – that’s non-negotiable." The special classes for waria are a good thing, he says, only if they force them to comply with Islamic teaching and return to their original gender.
For some of the worshippers at the waria school, the night will end here – with prayers and Koran-reading late into the night. Others will leave in the early hours to start work in Yogyakarta’s red light district. Jobs aren’t easy to come by in Indonesia if you are living as a woman in a man’s body. The school may have made it easier for the waria to learn about Islam’s teachings, but outside the stigma makes it much harder to live by them.
March 24, 2009 – The Jakarta Globe
Fear of Discrimination Preventing High-Risk Groups Testing for HIV
by Nurfika Osman
The fear of being further ostracized by society has been found to be a significant factor discouraging members of the country’s gay and transgender communities from taking up voluntary testing for HIV/AIDS, the Inter Medika Foundation said on Tuesday. Harry Prabowo, the director of the foundation, which works to prevent the spread of the disease in Indonesia, said that being diagnosed with HIV risked double stigmatization that could lead to severe depression.
“As gays, transvestites and men who have sex with men, or MSM, we are already rejected because our sexual orientation differs from the mainstream,” he said. “Once we are infected with HIV or AIDS, people will see us as even more filthy and we will be further shunned by society.” To help prevent the spread of the disease, he said that members of these communities needed to be motivated to take voluntary counseling and testing, or VCT.
“They need to be motivated to take VCT because they are at high risk of being infected by this disease, especially those who practice unsafe sex,” he said, adding that the motivation should not only come from members of these communities, but also from their families and friends. HIV screening tests can be taken at clinics in hospitals designated by the government and nongovernmental organizations to focus on the disease.
Standard VCT, which takes a few days before results are known, costs between Rp 10,000 (87 cents) and Rp 15,000. Rapid HIV tests are also available, returning results within 15 minutes, although they are only 75 percent accurate. The Indonesian government earmarked Rp 21 billion for National AIDS Commission programs this year. The commission also expects to receive an additional $2.18 million in aid from a global fund supported by the World Bank and other international donors to assist mitigation efforts and support families suffering financially because of the disease.
Subagio MS, the intergovernmental body director at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, said the ministry was working closely with the media, nongovernmental organizations, academics, local authorities, local communities and religious leaders across the country to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. “We are facilitating the distribution of information to all layers of society, working with them as well as with local officials,” he said. “Providing education and public dialogue about the issue are some of the ways we can promote the importance of taking VCT.”
Subagio said the ministry hoped that by promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS infection, more people would be encouraged to be screened for the disease. “Awareness of the problem and the willingness to be tested will help to change society’s attitudes,” he said. “This change of attitude would then help the country deal with HIV/AIDS.”
UN data shows 193,000 Indonesians had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS as of 2007, but that figure jumped to 270,000 the next year. In Jakarta, the Ministry of Health recently reported that as of October 2008, 47,000 people in the city had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Elsewhere in Indonesia, the disease is concentrated in high-risk groups, including intravenous drug users and commercial sex workers.
According to National AIDS Commission figures, the disease has already reached epidemic proportions in Papua and West Papua provinces. In 2007, a government study reported Papua had the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country, at nearly 20 times the national average.
March 27, 2009 – The Jakarta Post
Hartoyo : Coming out for his rights
by Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post
When he was an NGO worker involved in gender rights in farming communities, Hartoyo says he was greeted as a hero wherever he went. Today, in his more personal battle for gay rights in Indonesia, it’s a much lonelier journey.
"Fighting for gay rights is so different from other humanitarian causes such as education or helping the poor, even sex workers," says the 33-year-old, known as Toyo. "If we are working for gay rights, we’re considered somebody who is totally amoral. I’m not out to be a hero, but we are not even given respect as a person trying to achieve something."
He puts the stigma in blunt terms. "They think I am just fighting for penises and vaginas. That is the challenge for me."
The founder of One Voice, a group for empowering gay and bisexual men in Indonesia, is about to take another step in his journey. His autobiography Biarkan Aku Memilh: Pengakuan Seorang Gay (Let Me Choose: The Coming Out Declaration of a Gay Man) will be launched in Jakarta on April 17, followed by a speaking tour of several major cities.
He says he is ready for whatever reaction the book may get; it has several graphic passages about his sexual awakening and a harrowing description of his torture by police in Aceh. A slight, excitable man with a watchful gaze, he has been reviled on websites and received death threats by SMS. Although he sometimes wonders why gay rights is his calling, he has gone through too much to stop now, even if he is mostly going it alone.
While gay people in the West are demanding the right to civil unions, most Indonesian homosexuals are firmly in the closet, despite gay men becoming an increasingly visible part of the urban landscape of Jakarta and other major cities. In conformist, religious and family-oriented Indonesian society, a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy still exists for what is considered a deviant lifestyle.
It’s not just the general public that is dismissive of the concept of gay rights. Many men who have relations with other men (lesbians in patriarchal Indonesia face their own issues) are not interested in the politics of their sexuality. They are uneasy, even hostile toward gay men who come out publicly.
"They consider it wrong, that I’m strange for doing this," says Toyo, who adds that he does not blame them for their opinion. "They are part of a heterogenist society where they have been taught that being gay and their identity is just about sex. They’re victims, too."
The youngest son from a large family of Javanese transmigrants, Toyo was raised in Binjai, North Sumatra. His father was a civil servant and his mother died when he was about two. It was a deeply religious community, and Toyo would study at a madrasah after regular school. He says he is a product of his Javanese ancestry and the more forthright approach of the local Batak people.
He knew early on that he was different. In his book, he tells of declaring to his friends in elementary school that he didn’t like girls, which was met by a chorus of laughter.
His teenage years were marked by intense feelings of guilt about his homosexuality. It was only later, when working for an international NGO, that he developed a greater understanding of his identity. He describes an almost mystical experience when all of his repressed feelings and anger suddenly poured out during a meditation session. He read up on homosexuality from websites, and gradually began to come out to colleagues.
His tenuous reality of acceptance was shattered after he moved to Aceh to work in the field of women’s and children’s rights after the 2004 tsunami. On a January night in 2007, a group of people broke down the door of his rented room in Aceh, beat him and his boyfriend, ransacked his possessions and called the police.
He thought that he would be safe once in custody. Instead, for the next three hours, the two men, mainly Hartoyo, because he says he argued with the police, were subjected to abuse.
In a Jakarta coffee shop on a Saturday morning, a world away from Aceh where sharia law is practiced, Hartoyo takes a deep breath when asked to describe that experience. He says he still shudders when he hears a sudden knock on his door.
"We were treated like animals," he says of being stripped naked, forced to perform sex acts and being urinated upon.
The abuse (the two men were later forced to sign a "contract" stating they would not engage in homosexual relations again) was humilating enough. The reaction of others was also hurtful. Some said he should have known better than to have a homosexual relationship in Aceh of all places.
"I couldn’t believe what I was hearing," he says indignantly. "Aceh is still part of Indonesia and the police are supposed to protect citizens … torture is barred even under war conventions. But everybody was silent when my case came out. I felt it was as though the torture was acceptable because I’m gay."
He pursued his case against the police; when it finally came to trial in October 2008, four policemen were given suspended sentences and fined Rp 1,000 each, the same sentence that might be given for failing to wear a motorbike helmet on the road. He says he was shocked when the judge lectured him that the police had done the right thing in their treatment of him, thereby preventing another tsunami hitting Aceh.
"I was the accused, not the victim," he says.
If anything, such treatment has emboldened him. He denounced the media frenzy last year surrounding serial killer Ryan, which painted homosexuals as jealous, possessive characters with psychopathic tendencies. He plans to send his book to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Aceh Police chief, among others, in the hope that his case may be reopened.
He wants gay people living in remote corners of the country to read his story and know they are not alone. He also hopes that one day at least one respected Indonesian public figure will be brave enough to come out.
"I’ve chosen to publicize my experiences and campaign about this, and that means I’m ready for the consequences of my choices," he says. "Let others disagree with my position, as long as they don’t use violence or don’t try to force what they want on others. If they don’t agree, then let’s engage in dialogue. We’re still a democratic country."
Biarkan Aku Memilih, co-written by Titiana Adinda, is published by PT Elex Media Komputindo
April 2009 – GAYa Nusantara
Subregional meeting on male to male transmission of HIV to be held in Surabaya, Indonesia, 2-4 June 2009
by Jan W de Lind van Wijngaarden, UNESCO Bangkok
A subregional consultation meeting on how HIV affects men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders (TG) will be held on 2-4 June 2009 in Surabaya, Indonesia. The meeting is hosted by GAYa NUSANTARA, an Indonesian NGO and research group. Countries that will be invited to participate are Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, East Timor and Brunei. The meeting aims to bring together activists, public health professionals, scientists, HIV prevention program staff and experts as well as representatives of Governments of these countries, and discuss what we know about the HIV epidemic among MSM/TG and what lessons have been learned so far in trying to prevent HIV among MSM/TG; an additional focus is on how to increase uptake of counseling and testing and expand the provision of treatment, care and support for MSM living with HIV in these six countries.
The meeting, which is financially and technically supported by a coalition of agencies including UNESCO, UNDP, UNAIDS, FHI and USAID, aims to fulfill an important priority on the agenda of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), which aims to support forming subregional level coalitions of MSM/TG community representatives, donor agencies, advocates, activists and Governments. Such coalitions have been found effective in improving advocacy for more resources for MSM/TG in-country, for inclusion of MSM/TG in National AIDS Strategies and National AIDS Programs, for improved sharing of lessons learned and for coordinated and joint planning for scaling up responses.
‘Currently, only a tiny minority of MSM/TG in the six countries in our subregion have access to HIV prevention services’, says Dede Oetomo, who leads GAYa NUSANTARA, the host organization. "It is important to jointly review the HIV epidemic among MSM/TG, agree on a minimum necessary set of HIV prevention interventions, and start consultations between different stakeholders about how we can increase investment and coverage of interventions for MSM/TG."
The meeting aims to set in motion a process of subregional networking and joint advocacy efforts in the six countries of insular Southeast Asia, mirroring a similar process that was set in motion for the Greater Mekong Subregion since 2005. There, a subregional coalition of organizations working on MSM/TG and HIV was successful in putting this issue higher on the agenda of donor agencies and Governments, helped by the increased availability of HIV prevalence data in Thailand, China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao PDR.
"This remains a major gap in many countries of Insular Southeast Asia – there is no clear picture of how heavy the burden of HIV is on this group", said Rapeepun Jommaroeng of UNESCO Bangkok, which took the initiative for this meeting and supports Gaya Nusantara in the organization of the event, both financially and technically. "Without data indicating the severity of the epidemic, Governments and donor agencies may not take notice of the need to act."
Addy Chen of the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+) welcomed the meeting, focusing on the need to improve access to antiretroviral treatment for MSM/TG. "Under the current circumstances, only a minority of MSM/TG who are living with HIV are aware of their HIV status. We need to scale up access to voluntary counseling and testing services that are friendly to MSM/TG and which are truly anonymous and confidemtial, as a first step towards enrolling more MSM/TG in antiretroviral treatment programs."
The Chairman of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), Shivananda Khan, welcomed the meeting. "There is a need to share what we have learned across the subregion, learn from each other and plan for joint scaling up. It is of the utmost importance that Governments are on board as well, especially in countries where legal or religious barriers impede an open approach towards HIV prevention among MSM/TG."
June 05, 2009 – HIV Plus Magazine
HIV Cases Triple in Indonesia
The head of Indonesia’s AIDS commission announced Wednesday that the number of known HIV and AIDS cases in Indonesia has nearly tripled, jumping from 9,565 in 2005 to 26,632 as of March. “The number of infections is increasing and it’s worrying,” Nafsia Mboi told Agence France-Presse. She added it is believed that 85% of Indonesians with HIV do not know they are infected. Bali will be the site of the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, set for August 3–13. Representatives from 65 nations are expected to attend the conference, which carries the theme “Empowering People: Strengthening Networks.”
2009 July 30 – NCBI
AIDS Behav. 2009 Jul 30. [Epub ahead of print]
Sexual Risk Taking, STI and HIV Prevalence Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Six Indonesian Cities.
Morineau G, Nugrahini N, Riono P, Nurhayati, Girault P, Mustikawati DE, Magnani R.
Family Health International, Asia/Pacific Regional Office, 19th Floor, Sindhorn Building, Tower 3, 130 -132 Wireless Rd, Lumpini, Bangkok, 10330, Thailand, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using surveillance data on men who have sex with men (MSM) from six Indonesian cities, this article reports prevalence of sexual risk taking, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Factors associated with HIV, other STIs and consistent condom use were assessed. Behavioral data were collected from 1,450 MSM, among whom 749 were tested for HIV and syphilis and 738 for gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Associations were assessed using multivariate logistic regression. Over 80% of MSM knew HIV transmission routes, 65% of MSM had multiple male sexual partners, 27% unprotected anal sex with multiple male partners, and 27% sex with a female in the prior month. Consistent condom use ranged from 30 to 40% with male partners and 20 to 30% with female partners, depending upon partner type. HIV prevalence averaged 5.2%, but was 8.0% in Jakarta. Prevalence of rectal gonorrhea or Chlamydia was 32%. Multivariate analyses revealed recent methamphetamine use and current rectal gonorrheal or chlamydial infection to be associated with HIV infection. The data confirm diverse sexual networks and substantial sexual risk-taking, despite relatively high levels of education and HIV-related knowledge. In addition to promoting partner reduction and more consistent condom and lubricant use, prevention efforts must also address substance abuse.
September 14, 2009 – PinkNews
Indonesian province introduces severe penalties for homosexuality
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Aceh, a devoutly Muslim province of Indonesia, has passed new laws allowing heavy punishments for homosexuality, adultery and alcohol consumption. Under the new laws, those convicted of homosexuality may face public lashings and up to eight years in prison. For married people found guilty of of adultery, the penalties are even greater, with the harshest being stoning to death.
Aceh is a semi-autonomous region and has the power to decide its own laws. It currently abides strictly by Sharia law and the latest bill reinforces this. The decision to allow regions semi-autonomous power was made by the central government in 2001 in an attempt to pacify separatist rebels. Indonesian local authorities were granted the right to use Islamic law, the result being a strict conservative attitude to homosexuality often leading to the prosecution of gays, despite a federal constitution supposed to protect LGBT civil rights.
The move has also led to strict prohibitions on alcohol and gambling in Aceh, while women must wear headscarves. Human rights groups have condemned the move and the region’s vice-governor Muhamad Nazar has said he opposes stoning to death. The bill will pass into law in 30 days’ time, two weeks before a new parliament led by the moderate Aceh Party is sworn in.
22 September 2009 – Fridae
Aceh government rejects Shariah bylaw
by News Editor
The Aceh provincial government says it will not sign the controversial bylaw; Indonesia’s Home Minister Mardiyanto: The new bylaw would be “detrimental” to the Acehnese and would “frighten” visitors and investors. The Aceh provincial government says it will not sign the controversial Shariah (Islamic) bylaw (qanun) allowing adulterers to be stoned to death and homosexuals whipped, the Jakarta Post reported.
The report last Friday quoted Hamid Zein, the head of the legal bureau of the Aceh governor’s office, as saying on Thursday that the administration has firmly rejected the bylaw passed by the legislative council on Sep 14. "As long as the executive and legislative bodies do not settle differences in the application of [capital punishment by] stoning, the Aceh government will not sign the bylaw," Hamid said.
Aceh, an autonomous province and the country’s only province with special provisions allowing it to have Islamic Sharia-based laws. Signaling the first time the central government had intervened in the issuance of rules and legislation by the Aceh administration and council, Indonesia’s Home Minister Mardiyanto said the government would file a review to the Supreme Court, and the laws are "detrimental" to the Acehnese and would "frighten" visitors and investors, as well as possibly not respecting the [national] constitution.
Under the controversial regulation, men and women found guilty of adultery could be stoned to death publicly, while individuals engaging in premarital sex or homosexual sex may get 100 lashes, fined or jailed. The bylaw, which is applicable to Muslims and non-Muslims, will also provide for penalties for all parties proved to have "facilitated" such acts including hotels and entertainment venues.
Aceh’s Sharia laws already prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol, gambling or meeting a person of the opposite sex – who is not a spouse or family member – in a private place. According to media reports, the local law (qanun) will punish homosexuality and lesbianism with 100 lashes of the whip, 1 kilogram of gold, or 100 months in prison.
When asked, Toni Almuna, an activist working with civil society groups in Aceh told Fridae: "The type of punishment (lashes, fine or imprisonment) is to be decided by the judge, so for example if someone is proven to commit adultery, the judge will decide which punishment he/she deserves. If he/she is sentenced to pay fine (gold) it will be paid to the government."
The bylaw is being seen as a last-ditch move by conservative Islamic lawmakers to push through the new laws before a new council takes over in early October. The new council is said to be dominated by supporters of the current government under Irwandy Yusuf, the Aceh Party, mostly comprising former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), whose leadership is renowned for not supporting Sharia law in Aceh.
September 23, 2009 – The Jakarta Globe
Being Gay, Muslim and Indonesian
by Hera Diani
Despite living under the same roof for years, Fachri (not his real name) thought his father had no clue that he was gay. But around five years ago, when he borrowed his father’s Koran to research a project, he was surprised to find certain verses underlined in pencil. They were about God’s wrath toward people who committed acts of sexual deviance during the time of Prophet Luth (or Lot), the Islamic equivalent of the Sodom and Gomorrah text in the Bible.
Growing up in a religious family that adheres to Islamic teachings, it was not the first time Fachri had come across the verses. It was sort of touching, he said, how his father seemed to want to know him better, although he wished it was not through the religious text he despised.
“The text was one of the reasons why I decided to renounce my religion. I have lost faith in any kind of religion because it excludes us, condemns us,” said the 31-year-old advertising executive. “It creates an absolute border, whereas a human being is a complex thing. Why should I embrace religion when it doesn’t accept us? Why should I adhere to Islam, or any religion for that matter, when there is no space for me?”
In Indonesia, where religion plays a dominant role in society and where 90 percent of the population is Muslim, homosexuality is not punishable by law but condemnation of homosexuality has been voiced by many religious leaders, not only Islamic. Aceh, which adheres to Islamic Shariah law, recently issued a controversial bylaw mandating adulterers to be stoned to death and homosexuality and premarital sex to be punished by 100 lashes of a rattan cane.
In the remainder of the secular country, society in general is conservative, which means that being gay risks at least mockery and losing face with family and friends. Although gay-bashing is a rare extreme here, gay people continue to experience bias and prejudice. Facing condemnation from religious leaders, Fachri chose to renounce his faith. But many other gay people embrace their profoundly held religious beliefs regardless of what the teachings say about their sexuality.
Read the entire article here
September 25, 2009 – IGLHRC
Indonesia: Activists Fight To Overturn Oppressive Law in Aceh
On September 14, 2009, the province of Aceh in Indonesia, which has an autonomous regional government, passed a law that seriously challenges the rights of many of its residents. The Qanun Jinayat (Qanun is an Arabic term and is used in Aceh to denote local law, Jinayat is an Arabic term for criminal) calls for death by stoning for adultery committed by married heterosexual people, eight-and-a-half years in prison and 100 lashes of the cane for premarital sex or homosexuality, 400 lashings for child rape, and 60 lashings for gambling. Hardline Islamist legislators in Aceh broadened the meaning to include any sexual activity outside marriage, including sexual activity between unmarried people, male-to-male sexual activity, and female-to-female sexual activity.
Responding strongly to the stoning penalty, Ifdal Kasim, chair of Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission has lambasted the provincial legislature for "taking Aceh back to the 14th or 15th century."
Indonesian LGBT groups Violet Grey and Arus Pelangi are working with Acehnese human rights organizations and IGLHRC to entirely repeal or revise the Qanun Jinayat and bring it in line with Indonesia’s international obligations and its reputation for being a liberal democracy. Indonesia is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Covenant Against Torture, and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Syariat (also spelled sharia) was first adopted in the 17th century when Aceh was still an independent sultanate. Under Dutch colonial rule and subsequent Indonesian independence the Acehnese continued to adhere to syariat as a moral guide. Under syariat, prayer was mandated for Muslims, Muslim women had to wear head scarves, and gambling and use of alcohol was punishable by caning. However, these penalties were not enforced strictly because Aceh was still fighting for independence and the separatist movement did not aspire to impose syariat in an independent Aceh. In the 2005 peace agreement between the national government and Achenese separatists, syariat was enshrined as the basis for legislation and law enforcement in Aceh. Proponents of syariat initially claimed that it would be an expression of values and not strictly enforced. Critics say that conservative clerics and lawmakers have used self-governance as carte blanche to impose increasingly stringent sanctions on the people of Aceh, couching their interests as measures for preventing "moral degradation". The latter is evident in the formation of a morality police force to conduct surveillance of Acehenese society and enforce stricter adherence to syariat.
Human rights organizations in Indonesia are counting on the Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, and the newly elected secular parliament to oppose the stoning penalty in the Qanun Jinayat, which outgoing Islamic fundamentalist legislators pushed through before the new parliament could be installed in October 2009.
LGBT groups are concerned that even if stoning were removed from the Qanun, the punishment for homosexuality will remain, and are working to highlight this issue so that it is not overshadowed.
The Acehnese law is set to come into effect 30 days after passage unless there is intervention by Governor Irwandi’s government or Indonesia’s Supreme Court, which has the authority to nullify local laws that contradict or violate the spirit of national laws.
The Indonesian Criminal Code currently criminalizes adultery with a maximum of 10 months in prison, but only if a complainant comes forward. Indonesia’s Constitution prohibits discrimination on any ground, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Principles of pluralism and liberalism form the basis of Indonesia’s democracy, where pluralism includes sexual diversity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and liberalism includes the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
IGLHRC stands in solidarity with those working at local and national levels in Indonesia to support the repeal of the Qanun Jinayat. IGLHRC is not requesting any action from its supporters at this time.
December 9, 2009 – IGLHRC
Updates from One Day, One Struggle: Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies
On November 9, 2009, a diverse group of nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and activists across the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia carried out "One Day, One Struggle" events to promote sexual and bodily rights as human rights. Below are some of the campaign updates, including the national launch of a pioneering research on sexuality and rights; a panel and cultural show on what it means to be a hijra (transgender) in Bangladesh, a discussion on the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran, and a queer-straight alliance meeting in Pakistan.
Bangladesh: Pioneering research is being done on sexuality and rights in Bangladesh
The Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS (CGSH) at the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of BRAC University shared the findings of a trailblazing research project on sexuality and rights in urban Bangladesh. This exploratory study, the first of its kind, maps the manifold and changing understandings of sexuality, identity and rights among university students, factory workers, and sexual and gender minorities in Dhaka city. Dr. Dina Siddiqi, Sexuality Network Coordinator and Visiting Professor at the CGSH presented research findings on sexuality and rights in Dhaka. Other speakers were Dr. Sabina Faiz Rashid and Dr. Anwar Islam from the James P. Grant School of Public Health, Dr. Hilary Standing from the Realizing Rights Research Consortium, and Dr. Firdous Azim from the BRAC University Department of English and Humanities. A total of approximately 100 participants including journalists from the Bangladesh media, leaders of groups representing people of marginalized sexual orientations, independent researchers, anthropologists, public health professionals and NGO representatives were also present at the panel.
Bangladesh: Discussing the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran
Naripokkho organized a panel discussion entitled "Sexuality and Our Rights" which was moderated by Naripokkho member English professor Firdous Azim. Tamanna Khan, the president of Naripokkho and Shuchi Karim, a doctoral student at ISS in the Netherlands working on female sexuality in Bangladesh gave short presentations that were followed by an open discussion on the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran. Approximately 30 Naripokkho members participated in this event.
Bangladesh: Being hijra (transgender) in Bangladesh
Rangberong and Shochaton Shilpa Shangha organized a panel followed by a cultural show, both of which addressed specifically the hijra (transgender) community in Bangladesh. The panel hosted the speakers Ivan Ahmed Katha, the transgender president of the Shochetan Shilpa Shangha Association, Roksana Sultana, a journalist from BBC World, Nasrin Akhter Joli, the Deputy Director of the Hunger Project – Bangladesh and Mumtaz Begum, the former president of the Sex Workers’ Association. Police brutality and other problems faced by hijras on a daily basis were the main discussion topics of the panel. The cultural show afterwards included a musical performance specific to the hijra community that documented "why and how they became hijras, how this played havoc with their lives and how it is that they still love men."
Indonesia: New Aceh law violates Islam and women’s right to bodily autonomy
Read Article HERE