Gay Indonesia News & Reports 2010

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1 Transsexuals Take to the Stage in Aceh in Rare Beauty Contest 2/10

2 Indonesian police ban regional gay conference 3/10

3 Hard-liners force out sex congress participants 3/10

4 ILGA-Asia on the cancellation of the Surabaya conference 4/10

5 Gay, transvestite couple chosen as AIDS envoys 4/10

6 FPI sabotages transgender workshop 5/10

7 Fridae’s LGBT People to Watch 2010: Tono Permana 5/10

8 IDAHO event cancelled in Yogyakarta 5/10

9 Alterina latest proof of transgender problems 6/10

10 Homophobia on the rise 7/10

11 Acehnese gays face a climate of fear and abuse 8/10

12 Transgender Outcasts Give Lessons in Tolerance 9/10

13 Indonesia’s 9th Q! Film Festival to run in 6 cities 9/10

14 Islamic hardline group demands cancellation of Q! Film Festival 9/10

15 Barack Obama had a "transvestite gay nanny" in his childhood in Indonesia 11/10

16 ‘Give me some place to work – anywhere other than the streets’ 12/10

February 14, 2010 – The Jakarta Globe

Under the Shadow of Shariah Law, Transsexuals Take to the Stage in Aceh in Rare Beauty Contest

by Nurdin Hasan
Banda Aceh – In their best Acehese costumes, kitsch jewelry and towering hair buns, 40 transsexuals sashayed down a stage on Saturday to loud club music, disco lights and rapturous applause as they competed in the Miss Transsexual Aceh 2010.
The streets of Aceh may be monitored by the Wilayatul Hisbah, or Shariah Police, but that did not deter the audience in the auditorium of the Radio Republik Indonesia building in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, as they welcomed the finalists with screams and whistles.

There was no seat left unoccupied. Drag queens, homosexuals and members of Aceh’s minority communities forked out Rp 10,000 for tickets to the show, with some having to sit on the ground or watch from the balconies. Transsexuals entertained the audience by lip-syncing to local songs and dancing to dangdut music. Some wore sexy outfits while others donned the hijab , the Muslim headscarf. The winner of the Best Transsexual Catwalk wore a sash with the words “Cet Work,” a misspelling of the word catwalk, splashed across it.

Organized by Putroe Sejati Aceh (True Sons of Aceh), an organization that provides shelters for transsexuals, the 40 contestants represented 23 districts and cities in the staunchly Muslim province. University student Zifana Letisia, from North Aceh, was crowned the pageant winner and will represent Aceh at the Miss Transsexual Indonesia 2010. She said she was treated well at her campus despite her sexuality. “At campus, my achievements are quite extraordinary. Nobody dares to put me down.

“People on campus are polite, even respectful and proud of me, even though I am a transsexual,” Zifana said, adding that she did not take Islamic law lightly. A third-year nursing student and part-time beauty therapist, Zifana, whose real name is Anggah, beat out finalists Jasmine Mulan Sayuri, from South Aceh, and Joy, from Central Aceh. “We are very careful today [when it comes to Islamic Shariah law]. One day, we will build a special forum to try and find a middle-ground over this matter in Aceh,” Zifana said.

Organizing committee chairman Jimmy Saputra said the event had been approved by Aceh’s Ulema Consultative Assembly (MPU). “After we explained that this activity would be a positive event, the MPU scholars gave us permission,” said Jimmy, who also goes by his transsexual name Timmy Mayubi. The event was judged by a three-person panel. The judges were Marini, from the Indonesian Women’s Coalition of Aceh, and Silver Sebayang and Santi, both from RRI Banda Aceh.

The pageant started out with 40 contestants, of which 15 were selected as finalists. These 15 were further winnowed down to the final six. Many contestants struggled to understand the judges’ questions, which covered a wide range of issues, from corruption to the daily struggle of transsexuals and Shariah law in Aceh. When asked to comment on allegations that the province’s Shariah Police were violating the laws they enforced, 23-year-old Alin, from Lhokseumawe, said in a lilting voice: “I will follow the law of Islamic Shariah because I live in Aceh.”

The audience burst into laughter when Carla, 20, who was representing Aceh Besar district, replied to a question on the link between poverty and corruption with the answer: “If [the concept of] poverty was not applied, there would be no corruption.” Carla, in true beauty-queen style, kept poised and elegant despite the crowd’s reaction, and walked along the stage while waving her right hand. Other contestants were unable to speak at all when questioned by the judges. But some received standing ovations, including 19-year-old Joy, from Central Aceh district.

In response to a question on the existence of transsexuals at a time when Muslims were subject to Shariah law, Joy loudly declared: “The application of Islamic law in Aceh is not in accordance with the wishes of the people because many people in Aceh are still violating Shariah, especially during Ramadan when they are not fasting and commit adulterous affairs.”

Cut Nyak, 20, of Pidie district, said Shariah law was a “tool applied in Aceh to manage the public because the majority of Acehnese were Muslims,” adding that she supported the implementation of Islamic law in the province. Aceh’s controversial Qanun Jinayat code is a set of local bylaws that were passed in September by the province’s legislative council, and replaced parts of the Criminal Code with sections of Islamic law for Muslims.

Under the code, people deemed to have committed adultery or had premarital or homosexual sex could be sentenced to lashings with a cane or be stoned to death. Corporal punishment can also be meted out to rapists, child molesters and those caught drinking alcohol or gambling. Muslims’ interactions with members of the opposite sex who are not family members are also strictly regulated. After the code was passed, international human rights groups spoke out against the regulations and called them a violation of basic rights. Aceh’s governor, Irwandi Yusuf, has refused to sign off on the Qanun Jinayat.

Jimmy, the event organizer, said “raids against women clad in tight pants” should be the least of Aceh’s worries, as the province had many other problems. “There’s unemployment and other problems affecting the livelihoods of the people — that should be what we focus on, rather than on issues concerning people’s personal affairs. Everyone has the right to express their personality,” he said.

“Especially when it comes to sex. It should not be banned, because all people need sex. I also really need sex,” he said. He added that there were about 150 transgenders in Banda Aceh and they were able to fit into the community without any problems.

March 24, 2010 – AP

Indonesian police ban regional gay conference

by Nniniek Karmini (AP)
Jakarta, Indonesia — Indonesian police ordered the cancellation Wednesday of a conference of Asian gay activists, saying it could prompt violent protests by conservative Muslim groups. The conference, organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, was due to take place this weekend with participants from 16 countries.

The ban was issued by police in Surabaya, East Java’s capital, where the three-day event was to be held, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak said. The decision was made after considering public objections by Muslim groups and the Indonesian Ulema Council, an influential board of Muslim clerics, he said. "There are indications that the event could trigger a social crisis and cause public unrest," Ishak said. "This ban was issued for the sake of public order."

Poedjiati Tan, head of the organizing committee, said more than 150 activists representing 100 organizations in 16 Asian countries planned to attend the conference. Tan said the committee is trying to appeal the decision with police and religious leaders, arguing that the conference was meant to raise awareness of social issues faced by gays. "We want to convince Indonesian authorities and religious leaders that we only want to talk about social problems related to this minority group," she said. "We are seeking direction and a way out of our problems in health, education and issues of discrimination."

However, Abdussomad Bukhori, a prominent member of the cleric council, said the board would oppose any kind of gay event. "The event will hurt Indonesian Muslims because lesbians and gays are contrary to Islamic teaching," he said. "We will continue to reject any kind of homosexual event."

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but remains a sensitive issue in the socially conservative, Muslim-majority nation. At the same time, most of its society, which follows a moderate form of Islam, is tolerant, with gay and transsexual entertainers often appearing on television shows. The ILGA is a worldwide federation of more than 560 local, national and international organizations. Regional ILGA conferences have been held in India, the Philippines and Thailand in the past.

March 27, 2010 – Jakarta Post

Hard-liners force out sex congress participants

by Indra Harsaputra and Hans David Tampubolon,The Jakarta Post
Members of hard-line Islamic groups forced their way into a Surabaya hotel Friday, demanding participants of a planned congress on sexual orientation in the East Java city to leave the country by Sunday.
The police took no action against the move, condemned by politicians and activists as “unconstitutional” and violating human rights, who said the conference should be seen as “a celebration of democracy and human rights”.

Dozens of foreign participants from Mexico, Canada, the US and 13 Asian countries were scheduled to take part in the 4th regional Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) conference scheduled to run from Friday to Sunday. But the organizer decided Thursday to officially cancel the event, citing “security reasons”, after the police refused to grant them a permit fearing protests from religious groups.

Secretary-general of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in East Java, Mohammad Chaeruddin, said the foreigners were told to leave because Surabaya Muslims believed the conference was against religious values and teachings. “We forced them to return home by Sunday. We also told them not to make a media statement,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The group also entered several hotels in Surabaya and nearby Malang, including Mercure Surabaya where the conference was scheduled to be held on Thursday. They also urged hotels to make a written statement refusing to host the conference. On Friday at 3 p.m., FPI members, the Islamic Community Forum and the Indonesian Ulemas Council arrived at Oval Hotel. Hundreds more from the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which held a rally protesting gay, lesbian and transexual communities outside Grahadi Surabaya, arrived later.

South Surabaya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bahagia Dachi, said the police would ensure the safety of conference participants, including foreigners. “We’ll provide security escorts for foreigners to Juanda Airport Surabaya,” he said. Surabaya’s Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence coordinator, Andy Irfan Junaidi, criticized the police for allowing religious groups to undermine and violate the rights of minority groups. “Religious groups have prevented the groups to gather, against the guarantee of the Constitution,” he said.

Separately in Jakarta, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party politicians have called the police banning of a planned gay and lesbian congress in East Java as “unconstitutional”. “[Holding a congress] is a basic human right,” Benny Kabur Harman, House of Representatives’ justice and human rights commission chairman, said Friday. “Gays and lesbians are citizens whose political and legal rights are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution, which allows freedom of opinion. The state should in no way forbid the congress from being held.”

Benny’s colleague, Pieter Zulkifli, said the congress should be seen as “a celebration of democracy and human rights”. The National Awakening Party (PKB) said the congress must be relocated overseas “for the sake of the country’s moral values”.

7 April 2010 – Fridae

ILGA-Asia on the cancellation of the Surabaya conference

by ILGA Asia
The following is a statement from the ILGA-Asia Board on the cancellation of 4th ILGA-Asia Conference in Surabaya last month after dozens of protesters from hardline Islamic groups staked out the hotel and conference venue on what was to be the first day of the conference. The 4th ILGA ASIA conference was to take place in Surabaya, Indonesia from the 26th to the 28th of March 2010, however, due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, the conference had to be cut short.

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) is the only worldwide federation campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) rights and was established in 1978. The aim of ILGA is to work for the equality of LGBTI people and their liberation from all forms of discrimination. It seeks to achieve this aim through the worldwide cooperation and mutual support of its members.

ILGA ASIA is the Asian branch of ILGA and it has successfully organised conferences in India, the Philippines and Thailand in the past. ILGA ASIA has over 160 member organisations in more than 17 countries across Asia. ILGA Asia accepted the proposal of GAYa NUSANTARA, the oldest LGBT organisation in Indonesia, to host the fourth Regional Conference of ILGA Asia in Surabaya, Indonesia.

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April 19, 2010 – The Jakarta Post

Gay, transvestite couple chosen as AIDS envoys

by Luh De Suriyani, The Jakarta Post
A gay man and a transvestite were chosen as envoys for AIDS treatment in Bali during a contest organized by Gaya Dewata Foundation on Saturday. Surya Tan and Ella Wasabi were crowned as the Raka and Rai couple during the contest, in which 12 couples of gay men and transvestites competed. Surya is a gay man who has worked at a beauty salon for oneand-half years and has actively participated in the foundation. Ella, a transvestite, also works at a beauty salon.

The contest, the first the foundation has held in five years, was attended by 1,000 people, and was reportedly the merriest since a similar Raka and Rai pageant in 1996. Surya won the contest after he managed to answer the juries’ questions on how HIV spreads and about activities that could not transmit the infection. Ella also succeeded in convincing the adjudicators when asked about who should be held responsible for the spread of HIV in Bali. "All of us are responsible. We should work together to address the issue," Ella said to the audience’s applause.

Christian Supradinata, head of the contest organizing committee, said the foundation decided to hold the Raka and Rai contest after fi ve years in the wake of the increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Bali since last year. "We observe that there are more homosexuals and transvestites nowadays," Christian said. "This contest is aimed at campaigning about how to prevent HIV/AIDS among the group."

Christian said it had taken much time and effort to reach the group, including campaigning about the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, which are prevalent among gays and transvestites. "Most homosexuals and transvestites involved in our campaign were already infected. Therefore, we are focusing our campaign on the use of condoms and the treatment of infections."

I Made Suprapta, secretary of the Bali AIDS Mitigation Commission, called on winners in the contest to serve as role models for the group. He added HIV/AIDS had already infected the general population. Data from the provincial health agency showed an upsurge in the number of HIV/AIDS cases.

During January to November last year, the number of HIV/AIDS patients increased by 20 percent from 2,610 to 3,181. Sixty-seven percent of them, or 2,142 patients, were infected through a heterosexual relationship, while 23 percent other, or 730 patients were contracted the infection since they were injecting drug users. The remaining 5 percent, or 160 patients, were homosexual.

May 01, 2010 – Jakarta Post

FPI sabotages transgender workshop

by Theresia Sufa and Indah Setiawati
Dozens of members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) stormed a human rights training program intended for transgender individuals at a hotel in Depok, West Java, on Friday. The program, organized by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM), had just begun when dozens of FPI members forced their way (past police) into the room.

Nancy Iskandar, a participant, said after a coffee break at around 10:30 a.m, a number of police officers had come into the room. The committee had then asked participants to take a snack break in the training room. “Several people then suddenly banged on the door and shouted the name of God,” she said. Nancy, who is also the head of the Transgender Communication Forum, said the group verbally assaulted participants disgracefully.

The commission immediately moved the participants to its headquarters in Menteng, Central Jakarta, in the afternoon to ensure their safety. Lupi, another participant from Bali, sobbed when she said it was really sad and ironic that their right to hold social activities were deprived when they were learning about human rights. “Transgender people are not trash. We earn a living in a decent way for our families and send our brothers and sisters to school,” she said.

Depok Police questioned five security officers as witnesses following the sabotage. Depok Police detective unit chief Comr. Ade Rahmat said they summon members of the FPI who were involved in the attack. “If it is proved they attacked the event, we will take legal action against them,” he said. Police said the attackers thought the workshop was a beauty pageant.

Ade said police were already on site when the group had entered the hotel to protest the event, but failed to stop them entering the room. “We were outnumbered. We did not expect them to attack, so [the event] had to be stopped,” Ade said. The event’s trustee, Hesty Armiwulan, criticized Depok Police for its sluggish response in safeguarding the event, allowing attackers to enter the room. “Transgender people are marginalized and vulnerable. This training program was meant to make them feel safer and empowered, and this incident only made them more afraid,” she said.

Hesty said the three-day program, which was initially scheduled to end Saturday, was solely for educational purposes. “On Friday night, we were planning to hold a little ceremony to give an award to the best participant,” she said, adding that there was no pageant. Twenty-five people were at the workshop.

Hesty said that despite the incident the commission was committed to resuming its training program. She said she had worked with Depok Police to assure their safety at the hotel on Saturday. “The topic of this program should be taught thoroughly to provide its participants with a thorough understanding of human rights,” Komnas HAM education and training member Hesty said.

14 May 2010 – Fridae

Fridae’s LGBT People to Watch 2010: Tono Permana

by Fridae Features Team
The series presents 10 movers and shakers in Asia – the world’s most populous continent – who are set to bring about positive change in their local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
This week we put the spotlight on Mohamad Shahrani Mohamad Tamrin who was recently appointed representative for gay men and MSM on the Malaysian AIDS Council; and Tono Permana, the national coordinator of GMW-INA – Gay Men, Men who have Sex with Men and Waria in Indonesia – who is responsible for the country’s 17,508 islands (of which about 6,000 are inhabited).

This list is by no means exhaustive, but we are sure that this handful of extraordinary individuals will encourage and inspire you. If you know of anyone who you think is doing an amazing job for the greater good – whether they be activists or artists, entrepreneurs or entertainers, send us their details at Pulling together a network of organisations that connects gay men, men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) people across the Indonesian archipelago of 17,508 islands (of which about 6,000 are inhabited) is no easy feat. And that is just what Tono Permana is trying to do.

Tono Permana

Permana is at the helm of GMW-INA – Gay Men, Men who have Sex with Men and Waria (Bahasa Indonesian for transgender people) of Indonesia – and holds the position of national coordinator for the next two years. The network celebrated its first birthday in early 2010 and its very inception got a stamp of approval from the National AIDS Commission ensuring that a much needed ally for MSM and TG is found at the highest echelons of Indonesia’s HIV response. In a country that is as culturally diverse and geographically fragmented as Indonesia connectors like Permana are indespensible. His warm-hearted and jovial demeanour belies an astute and inituitive sensibility that resulted in GMW-INA building bridges where none have existed before. This deft touch has earned him the respect of his peers and international observers.

Working dilligently behind-the-scenes, Permana and his team are on a mission to reverse a worrying tread: only nine percent of the national HIV awareness and prevention campaigns reaches some of the most-as-risk populations: MSM and transgender people. Even more distressing is the revelation from the National Coordinating Agency for Family Planning that only one percent of the general male population use condoms. This has led to a recent government admission that Indonesia will likely fall short of its Millenium Development Goals with respect to curbing HIV prevallence among the young, increasing condom use and sexual health awareness. Although the outlook may seem bleak, Permana remains optimistic that the time is ripe for the community to take the lead and care for itself.

æ: Why do you do this work?

I’m doing this work because all [GMW-INA] members rely on my ability to coordinate at a national level. I also have my own ideas related strengthening the network institutional. I see that the biggest obstacle for HIV prevention programs among gay men and transgender is the weakness of institutional management. That’s why the national secretariat is an ideal place to hold capacity building [workshops] for our member.

æ: How do you think you can make positive change happen in 2010?

The involvement of [GMW-INA] in the consultation and coordination process related to the HIV response at a national level has meant better recognition from stakeholders and donor agencies about the urgent need to scale-up the HIV prevention program for MSM and TG. The [GMW-INA] has also been involved in the monitoring of national HIV program and now we are in the process of drafting our National AIDS Strategy and Action Plan for MSM and TG 2010 – 2014. This will have very powerfull impact especially to boost the programs for MSM and TG.

æ: What is your message to people who stand in your way?

I would like to say that gay men and transgenders could also be your family members, your friends or maybe your relatives. We are also part of the community. We do alot of positive things for other people regradless of their sexuality. We help people in need especially related with HIV prevention. So please do not stigmatize us and don’t discriminate us.

Tono Permana can be contacted via GMW-INA

With contributions from Laurindo Garcia, Patty Tumang and Sylvia Tan.

26 May 2010 – Fridae

IDAHO event cancelled in Yogyakarta after threats by Islamist group, activists hold ‘protest on wheels’

by Sylvia Tan
Close to 50 people protested the police’s inaction by cycling near the park where the scheduled event was to be held but the gathering was cut short after participants were warned that members of the Islamist group bent on breaking up any IDAHO activity were on their way. A concert to be held in a public park in Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta), Indonesia for LGBTIQ artists to showcase their talents and to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) last Saturday had to be cancelled after their permit was revoked, organisers told Fridae. Diversity Stage was to be the finale of a three-part IDAHO programme to be held on the evening of Saturday, May 22, at Sasono Hinggil, a large hall situated in Alun-alun Selatan (the South Square) in a public park.

Yuventius Nicky Nurman, a co-organiser of the event, told Fridae in a statement that on the afternoon of Friday, May 21, a representative of Sasono Hinggil went to the office of the IDAHO planning committee and requested that the building-usage permit that Sasono Hinggil had previously issued be returned. Organisers say they were told by the representative said that the local police had officially asked the venue to rescind their permit citing violent threats received from Islam Defenders Front (aka Front Pembela Islam / FPI) – the same group that forced the cancellation of the ILGA Asia conference in Surabaya and the Human Rights training event at Depok, near Jakarta.

On the morning of Saturday, May 22, a small group from the IDAHO committee went to the police headquarters to confirm what they were told. The police verified the existence of the FPI threat; and the organisers were given an official letter, and oral explanation as to why the police will not issue a permit for Diversity Stage. The reasons as provided by the event organisers to Fridae:

1. Allowing Diversity Stage to be staged was "not conducive to public safety and order."

2. Referring to similar events in Surabaya and Depok as precedents, the "highly contentious content of the event had caused clashes."

3. "The police had to maintain public order for the sake of a conducive atmosphere to support the then-upcoming local election."

The statement continued: “The police also made it very clear that should we pursue our event in spite of everything, they will not be able to guarantee the safety of the attendees. Pursue at your own risk, that was essentially what they said.”

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June 11, 2010 – The Jakarta Post

Alterina latest proof of transgender problems

by Ika Krismantari, The Jakarta Post
Modern Jakarta is still no place for transgender people with the authorities reluctant in granting protection to the rights of individuals, whose gender and identity do not conform to society’s values, an anlayst and rights activist said.
“There is still an apparent lack of awareness among the authorities, especially the police, on how to handle this specific issue,” sociologist Siti Hidayati Amal said recently.

This view, Siti added, has led to police using violence in dealing with the transgender people because their lack of knowledge has prompted them to see these groups as abnormal. Police also seem to turn a blind eye to people assaulting transvestites in the name of religion or community. All penitentiary complexes in Jakarta are made strictly made for men and women, without special facilities given to transgender people, leading to confusion as to where to incarcerate these individuals.

The recent case of Alterina Hofan highlighted the authority’s unpreparedness in dealing with this issue. Alterina suffers Klinefelter’s syndrome, a rare case where a male has an extra X chromosome that makes him look more like a woman. After years of operations, Alterina has documented himself as a man and even married Jane Hadipoespito.

The problem arose when Jane’s parents denounced the marriage, filing a lawsuit against Alterina for document fraud because he previously declared he was a woman in his identity cards. Police then took Alterina to prison, ignoring the latest report from a doctor that confirmed he was a man. The police decided to take Alterina to the Pondok Bambu women’s penitentiary in East Jakarta, after being transferred between a number of men’s and women’s penitentiaries.

But because of his apparent male physical features, the police separate Alterina from other inmates and place him in a special room in the penitentiary. Josep Adi Prasetyo of the National Commision on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), views the case as an example of the state’s failure in protecting people’s rights. He referred to an international convention on civil and political rights that guaranteed people’s rights of their identity. The convention was ratified by the Indonesian parliament in 2005.

“He has the right to say he is a man,” Josep said after visiting Alterina on Wednesday, adding an independent medical practitioner was needed in the case. He also denounced the police’s decision to carry out a forced medical check on Alterina and undermine previous reports from the doctor declaring Alterina a man. The police’s medical check-up show the opposite result, saying Alterina is a woman.

Alterina’s wife Jane said that she did not really care. “All I want is for my husband to be freed as soon as possible,” she said. Alterina’s first trial hearing is scheduled next Monday. A recent human rights training for transgender people in Depok, south of Jakarta, was broken up by the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI).

July 2010 – Inside Indonesia

Homophobia on the rise

Recent attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender meetings reveal the growing influence of Islamist groups and highlight unequal protection of citizenship rights

by Jamison Liang
In recent months, Indonesia has witnessed demonstrations against two conferences aiming to discuss the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The first occurred in response to the fourth regional meeting of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), scheduled to take place in Surabaya, East Java on 26-28 March 2010 and supported by Indonesia’s leading LGBT organisation, GAYa NUSANTARA. A month later in Depok, West Java, a workshop on transgender issues sponsored by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) found itself in the same predicament.

In both of these incidents, the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI), an Islamist organisation with a record of violent tactics, led the choir of critics against LGBT citizens. In both cases, the attacks on the conferences prompted their cancellation. In their protests, FPI and its supporters denounced LGBT sexualities and genders as not belonging in Indonesia and contravening Islamic morals and beliefs. A disturbing feature of both events was the inability or unwillingness of police to prevent detractors from disrupting the meetings or to ensure the safety of conference participants, even though one of the meetings was endorsed by the Indonesian government. As such, these events reveal the growing influence of Islamist parties in Indonesia and the challenges facing Indonesian LGBT rights activists.
An international meeting goes awry

ILGA, a major global network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist organisations, selected Surabaya-based GAYa NUSANTARA to host the fourth conference of its Asian branch. ILGA has a history of successfully organising workshops on gender, sexuality and activism in the Asian region. It had previously held meetings in Mumbai (2002), Cebu (2005), and Chiang Mai (2008), all with little to no backlash from local communities. With ILGA looking to bring its meeting to Indonesia for the first time, GAYa NUSANTARA emerged as a leading candidate for organising the 2010 gathering, billed with the slogan ‘LGBT Asia Moving Forward’.

Controversy arose early in the week of the conference when media outlets began reporting that gays and lesbians from around the world would be descending upon Surabaya for the three-day event at the Mercure Hotel. In response, FPI and its supporters approached the Mercure management, strongly encouraging them to withdraw from the ILGA conference or face demonstrations. Mercure agreed to the request, backing out of its contract with ILGA and thereby forcing the ILGA board to identify a new site with only a few days to spare. The board quickly settled on the Oval Hotel and secured an agreement from hotel management to use its conference rooms.

However, another obstacle remained: the Surabaya police had decided to not grant a recommendation for the event. According to GAYa NUSANTARA staff, South Surabaya police (Polres) initially agreed to issue a recommendation, but were instructed not to do so by the higher Surabaya City Police (Polwiltabes) after the headquarters received several calls from the United Madura Forum (Formabes), the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) – a collection of conservative Muslim organisations. For Polwiltabes, the conference represented a threat to security and society’s orderliness (kamtibmas), and for this reason the recommendation could be withheld.

On 24 March, two days before the conference was scheduled to begin, The Jakarta Globe quoted a police officer who claimed ‘[The police] will not issue the permit due to security reasons. If it is allowed to be held, many parties will stage protests.’ This decision brought criticisms from human rights advocates, including members of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Surabaya branch of The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) who, when interviewed by The Jakarta Post, noted that ‘Religious groups have prevented [ILGA] to gather, against the guarantee of the Constitution.’

That same afternoon ILGA received a call from a man who claimed to work for the police and was willing to issue the recommendation letter – for a price of Rp.15 million. After negotiation, both parties agreed to Rp.5 million, and ILGA, who perhaps naively trusted the caller, wired the money to his bank account. Upon arrival at the police station, however, there was no officer by the caller’s name, and certainly no recommendation

Coping with threats
On 25 March, the day before the conference was planned to commence, rumours had spread that Oval was the new site, prompting a new wave of threats from Islamist groups like FPI and condemnation from conservative Muslims, including MUI. Abdussomad Bukhori, head of East Java MUI, told The Jakarta Post that MUI would ‘make strenuous efforts to call off the event because it would likely spark social unrest and waves of protests’. Similarly, Mohammad Dhofir, a representative of the Bangkalan branch of FPI, explained to Jawa Pos that foreign participants must be removed from the country and that FPI would escort them to the airport. In response, the ILGA board announced to the media that the conference was officially cancelled due to security reasons. In turn, FPI bullied ILGA into an agreement that it would not hold a press conference later on, thus allowing FPI to dominate the media coverage of the event.

Later that night the directors of ILGA and GAYa NUSANTARA called an emergency meeting with all attendees in order to review incoming threats and respond to concerns from participants. After much deliberation, it was agreed that the following day ILGA would not use Oval’s conference rooms, but that participants would attempt to hold small talks in individual hotel rooms – activities that required no police permit because they could be considered private conversations between hotel guests. It was decided that participants would take this course of action only if protests remained peaceful.

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20 August 2010 – Fridae

Acehnese gays face a climate of fear and abuse

by News Editor
Passed by the provincial legislature in October 2009, the bylaw – which the Governor has refused to sign and officials in Jakarta have asked to be withdrawn – would punish homosexuals with 100 cane lashes.

Map of area

Excerpted from a report in The Jakarta Globe:
In a country where homosexuality is taboo and where many Indonesians still refuse to acknowledge gay people, it’s especially challenging for an organization such as Violet Grey to operate in Aceh, which is allowed to implement partial Shariah law.

Continuously living in the shadows, gays, lesbians, and cross-dressers are seen as a disgrace to the province’s self-proclaimed “religious society.” Not surprisingly they suffer frequent discrimination and often abusive treatment. “We were born as Muslim, as Acehnese. Is it true that we are not part of Islam?” asked “Toni,” a gay activist and member of Violet Grey. “In Aceh, the implementation of Shariah touches on symbols such as headscarves or changing street names to Arabic letters without really addressing people’s desires of prosperity and justice. I think we are in the process of Talibanization.”

Toni grew into his homosexual identity when he was studying at an Islamic boarding school at the age of 14. “I thought by studying in a pesantren [Islamic boarding school] , it would cure my homosexuality.” He was wrong. “In an Islamic boarding school, where life is segregated by gender, I met my first love,” he said, laughing. Toni added that when Islamic boarding schools separate boys from girls as a way to prevent promiscuity, it actually enables some boys to discover their homosexual identity.

September 15, 2010 – Jakarta Globe

Transgender Outcasts Give Lessons in Tolerance

by Rebecca Henschke
Mirrors were tucked behind embroidered drapes, prayer rugs spread over the carpet and fashion magazines replaced by copies of the Koran in preparation for breaking the fast at dusk on a quiet day near the end of Ramadan. In a quiet alley in the ancient Javanese city of Yogyakarta, Mariyani, a 50-year-old transgender hairdresser, has turned part of her salon into an Islamic school.
It’s a place where lesbian, gay and transgender Muslims — banned from Islamic schools and unwelcomed at mosques — can safely pray and discuss their religion. “Tonight we are breaking the fast and praying with 90 orphans and poor women from a nearby village. It’s my 50th birthday today and I want to thank God for giving me this time on earth. I will be called by God in the not too distant future, so I have to do the right thing,” says Mariyani.

Mariyani was abandoned at birth and adopted by a Roman Catholic family in Yogyakarta. “I was baptized and raised as a Catholic. My adopted parents were very poor. From when I was a young child, I always played with girls’ toys and I knew very early on that I had the heart and spirit of a woman," Mariyani says. “When I was 13, even before I had a national identity card, I decided I would need to fend for myself.”

Mariyani looks like a typical Indonesian housewife at the gathering. She is wearing a simple long dress, a headscarf and has no makeup, but photos around the salon reveal a different side of her life. One picture shows her wearing a slinky cream off-the-shoulder evening dress, bright-red lipstick and blue eye shadow. “I was 20 when I decided to start dressing like a woman. I had my heart broken when my boyfriend married a woman. It was then that I started meeting other transgenders and entered the dark night world. I sold my body on the streets to survive. I traveled across Indonesia working in the popular transgender beats so I could survive. I sold myself for less than 10 cents,” she laughs. “That was the price back then.”

Transgenders, or waria as they are known in Indonesia, have limited job opportunities. They often worked as prostitutes, buskers or hairdressers in salons. “Being a transgender is not a choice. If I had the choice I wouldn’t want to become a transgender, but that’s what God decided for me, so I accept this and thank God for it,” she says. “When I was young I didn’t want to live a good life but as I got older I realized that selling my body was wrong … so I slowly saved money and opened this hairdressing salon and returned to the path of God.”

Homosexuality is not outlawed in Indonesia, but the Indonesian Ulema Council has declared it evil or haram. It created a social environment that rejects lesbians, gays and transgenders in the community. This lack of acceptance pushed vigilante groups to campaign for the cancellation of an international conference organized by lesbian, gay and transgender activists in Surabaya earlier this year.

Explaining the seeming contradiction between her sexuality and Islam, Mariyani says that all religions are good — it’s humans that are not. “There was no sudden awakening or anyone telling me to go to the mosque. Islam just felt right in my heart,” Mariyani tells the crowd that has gathered in her salon to break the fast. “Even though some ulemas say that our prayers will not be answered, that we are not accepted by God, I believe that we have every right as humans to pray. We are not praying to be ‘healed’ or be turned back into men. No! Praying is our business with God, not with other people.”

Mariyani also asks the orphans, through tears, to respect the rights of transgenders to enter mosques and pray. As the evening call to prayer rings out, the transgenders and the orphans sit down together to have their first sip of water since sunrise.

After breaking the fast, the group prepares to pray. Among the faithful is Novi. She has lacquered fingernails and long black hair, but tonight she is wearing a green sarong and white shirt. She says she feels more comfortable praying as a man but during the day and in her heart she is a woman. Novi was brought up in what she describes as a fundamentalist Muslim family and attended an Islamic boarding school.

She says she used to dress as a man and hide her true self. “My hope with this Islamic school is that the general public will see that transgenders are not bad people. We have skills and can contribute to society. We can dance and do makeup but we can also teach the Koran. God sees what is inside us and hears our prayers. He doesn’t care about what’s on the outside,” Novi says.

This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a regional current affairs radio program produced by Indonesian radio news agency KBR68H. You can find more stories from Asia Calling.

September 23, 2010 – Fridae

Indonesia’s 9th Q! Film Festival to run in 6 cities

by Sylvia Tan
Q! Film Festival will kick off its 2010 season with two films and an opening party in Jakarta on Friday, 24 September before travelling to Surabaya, Malang, Yogyakarta, Bali and Makassar (South Sulawesi) in October. It’s Asia’s largest film festival in terms of the number of film screenings and the duration of the festival.
Now in its ninth year, the Q! Film Festival is expected to screen 120 films in six cities including Jakarta, Surabaya, Malang, Yogyakarta, Bali and Makassar (South Sulawesi) for a month.

The festival is also officially acknowledged as a part of the Teddy Award Section of Berlin Film Festival called "Teddy on Tour" program since 2006. In addition to film screenings, the festival in Jakarta will also feature two art exhibitions: The Napkin Boys by Carlos Franklin and Top/Bottom?, a group showing by more than a dozen artists. There will also be talks and three book launches in Jakarta: Q! Stories, Orang Macam Kita – the first Malay-language anthology of queer writing featuring 25 short stories and essays, and

Menagerie 7 – the first anthology in English of Indonesian gay literature. The month-long festival in the predominantly Muslim country is notably the largest LGBT event of its kind anywhere in the world. In March this year, a regional conference in Surabaya organised by International Lesbian and Gay Association – Asia was forced to cancel after protests by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a fundamentalist group, and the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), an association of Muslim clerics.

Festival director John Badalu told Fridae that although he is aware of the potential risk, he says the festival is “different in principle” and considers the festival to be “more cultural rather than political.” He says he is also more cautious by being selective of the medium to promote the festival. “We never do a public press conference for example. And we choose only queer-friendly media.” Badalu, who’s also a co-founder of the festival which began in 2002, revealed that they had faced similar protests in the first two years of the festival but did not experience any damage or disruption.

According to Badalu, the festival does not require specific permits from the police or any other authorities as the organisation was officially established to organise a film festival once a year. “And also because all the screening venues are cultural venues and foreign embassies that regularly organises events, it is considered as their regular events,” he explained. The festival however did seek a "permit" in Bali as it is done traditionally to show deference to "unofficial authorities” such as the chief of the village.

The festival works closely with a number of foreign governmental or government-linked groups including Goethe Institute (Germany), Erasmus Huis (Dutch Cultural Centre), Central Culture Francaise (France), Japan Foundation and AusAID (Australia) and is mainly funded by Holland-based Hivos (Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation). Festival guests include Zvonimir Dobrovic – Founder and Programme Director of Queer Zagreb Festival (Croatia), Carlos Franklin –visual artist (Colombia), Hiroki Iwasa – musician and filmmaker (Japan), Koichi Imaizumi – actor, scriptwriter, independent filmmaker and producer (Japan), Lawrence Ferber – filmmaker, journalist and programmer for Philadelphia International Gay &Lesbian Film Festival (US) and filmmaker Royston Tan (Singapore).

Festival dates

Q! Film Festival Jakarta
22 Sept – 3 October 2010

Q! Film Festival Surabaya
5 – 10 October 2010

Q! Film Festival Malang
07 – 09 October 2010

Q! Film Festival Yogyakarta
11 – 12 October 2010

Q! Film Festival Bali
13 – 17 October 2010

Q! Film Festival Makassar
18 – 22 October 2010

For schedule of films and events, visit

28 September 2010 – Fridae

Islamic hardline group demands cancellation of Q! Film Festival

by News Editor
More than a hundred members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front have staged demonstrations outside three cultural centres affiliated to foreign governments today to pressure the venues to call off any events related to the festival. The Jakarta Globe reported that some 100 members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front arrived at three foreign-run venues participating in Indonesia’s gay and lesbian film festival at mid-day on Tuesday to demand that the venues stop participating in the festival.

From “Indonesia: Facing Down the Fanatics,” a story in National Geographic’s October 2009 issue. “Live respected or die as a martyr” reads the red-letter motto on the hoods of Front Pembela Islam members. The report quoted Q! Film Festival director John Badalu who had confirmed the demonstrators had moved from the Centre Culturel Francais (France) to the GoetheHaus (Germany) and on to the Erasmus Huis (Holland), where films and other events are also expected to be take place. The group had also written to other venues including theatres, bars and galleries to protest their participation.

According to the Jakarta Post, Salim Alatas, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of FPI, said organisers of the festival have 24 hours to cancel the festival. "We do not want this place to be set on fire because of the moral decadence," Salim was quoted by as saying during the rally at the Goethe Institute on Jl. Sam Ratulangi in Menteng.

The Islamic Defenders Front or Front Pembela Islam (FPI) was also responsible for disrupting the ILGA ASIA conference in Surabaya and Human Rights training event at Depok near Jakarta earlier this year. The FPI warned in a statement on its website that it was fighting to stop the campaign of "adultery, homosexuality and lesbianism in Indonesia" disguised as the gay and lesbian film festival. It added that they deemed the film festival to be a tool to convert Indonesian youth to become gay and lesbian.

It further said that should foreign venues and organisations parties continue to cooperate with liberal groups to make a mockery of the tenets of Islam, the defenders of Islam would have to do what they can to defend their morals and their country. Organiers cannot be reached for their comment at press time but the official Twitter update at 4.40pm on Tuesday says the event tonight would go ahead as planned.

Meanwhile, Vivanews reported that the Jakarta Police said it would take stern measures against FPI’s threat to burn and destroy the venues that are hosting the festival. The Q! Film Festival, which kicked off last Friday, is expected to run till October 3 in Jakarta before travelling to Surabaya, Malang, Yogyakarta, Bali and Makassar (South Sulawesi) in October.

11 November 2010 – Fridae

Barack Obama had a "transvestite gay nanny" in his childhood in Indonesia

by Sylvia Tan
The New York Times article that mentioned Obama’s gay nanny who joined a "transvestite" dance troupe, and which has spawned numerous reposts with headlines like "Obama’s nanny was a gay transvestite" could have more accurately used "transgender" or "waria" – an indigenous Indonesian "transgender" person. US President Barack Obama’s visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, where he had lived for four years between 1967 and 1971, inspired the New York Times to run a story about his life in Indonesia, where his family lived, what school he attended and that he had a gay nanny who later joined a transvestite group.

Over the last few days, many websites from the gay media to anti-Obama blogs have quoted the Times article that ran on Monday in advance of Obama’s visit to the most populous Southeast Asian country on Tuesday and Wednesday:

“Mr. Obama’s family rented the guest house inside a compound belonging to a prominent physician. There, according to the neighborhood’s longtime residents, the young Obama, who had already experienced differences in class and religion in his short stay in Indonesia, was exposed to another aspect of Jakarta’s diversity. His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia’s relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta’s streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.”

The word “transvestites” however is not the most accurate word to describe members of Indonesia’s indigenous waria culture. Waria – a contraction of Indonesian words ‘wanita’ meaning woman and ‘pria’ meaning man – is one of Asia’s many indigenous “transgender” identities alongside mak nyahs (Malaysia), baklas (Philippines), kathoeys (Thailand), kothis and hijras (India) and metis (Nepal). Also known as the “third gender”, warias are often male persons who have feminine mannerisms and dress in female clothing but may or may not solely identify as male or female, or neither.

According to Dédé Oetomo, founder of GAYa NUSANTARA, the longest-running Indonesian gay organisation, Fantastic Dolls was a famous waria dance group in the late 1960s and 1970s. The group’s leader, Myrna (a.k.a. Bambang) also founded Himpunan Wadam Djakarta in the late 1960s and is said to be Indonesia’s first waria organisation that worked on social issues and usually with the help of municipal governments.

Inside Indonesia, a non-profit publication, said in a 2007 article: "Every few years the Malang city government has offered employment training programs in which waria participants are trained and financially assisted to establish beauty salons (part of an effort to dissuade them from engaging in prostitution). When I enquired in 2006, the Malang city government’s Social Affairs Division told me the last program was held in 2005 and had enrolled 25 participants."

To read more about Indonesia’s waria culture, click on the links below.

Defining waria
Transgendered in Malang (Inside Indonesia)

December 29th, 2010 – Umeedain Times

‘Give me some place to work – anywhere other than the streets’

by UmeedainTimes [Translate]
Transgender sex workers in Indonesia know that condom use can help prevent HIV infection – but clients’ refusal is fuelling Asia’s fastest-growing rates of HIV infection When Bea became a sex worker in the red light district of Jakarta, Indonesia, she knew she needed to use condoms to protect herself from HIV but her clients refused to use them. Bea, 30, is a waria – a man who has assumed a female identity. The word is derived from wanita, which means woman in Indonesian, and pria, meaning man. Whether they wear women’s clothes or have undergone a full sex change operation, waria view themselves women.

“I knew the big risks that having this job would bring,” she says matter-of-factly, although her voice betrays emotion. She needed the money so she stayed quiet. Meanwhile her clients continued to insist on sex without condoms, believing anal sex could not lead to HIV. Nightfall in Taman Lawang, a street in the Menteng subdistrict of central Jakarta, signals the start of Bea’s day. Dressed in fishnet stockings, her short hair dyed burgundy, pale skin exposed in her short T-shirt, Bea takes her place. Groups of waria sex workers, clad in tight dresses and flawless make-up, line the streets, sauntering in vertiginous heels and calling out to strangers in melodic, teasing voices.

“Some clients believe [anal sex] is not real penetration,” explains Tono Permana, a national coordinator of the Jaringan GWL-INA Network, an Indonesian NGO supporting the gay, transgendered and MSM – men who have sex with men – community. This ignorance of the fact that HIV and AIDS can be transmitted through anal sex has made waria sex workers vulnerable to contracting HIV. Since discovering she was HIV positive, Bea has insisted on using condoms. If a customer does not want to use one, she rejects them. But many waria, relying on sex work as their only income, continue not to use condoms.

Fastest growing rate of HIV infection
According to a 2007 integrated biological-behavioural surveillance (IBBS) study of high-risk groups there are around 35,000 waria in Indonesia. Eighty per cent of the waria interviewed in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya, had sold sex to male customers in the last year. The study, carried out by Indonesia’s National Aids Prevention and Control Commission (Komisi Penanggulan AIDS, or KPA), the ministry for health and USAID, among others, suggests HIV prevalence rate among waria sex workers had reached 34% in Jakarta, 28% in Surabaya and 16% in Bandung. Less than 50% were using condoms.

Indonesia has the fastest-growing rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Asia, with more than 300,000 HIV cases, according to UNAIDS. Meanwhile, condom use is extremely low, partly due to opposition from Islamic groups that argue condoms encourage people to have sex outside marriage. The KPA has been forced to address the issue, breaking the taboo against condoms to announce the country’s first national condom week in 2007. In 2008, the KPA announced it had distributed 20 million condoms to targeted high-risk groups across the country. The commission now aims to install 22,000 condom outlets by 2013 in the 12 provinces with the highest HIV prevalence.

Permana says that the KPA has tried to improve its communication strategy this year. Where previously they focused solely on why condoms are necessary to avoid contracting HIV, they now spread the message within the context of eliminating discrimination. “They are trying to tell them that you should be proud of who you are, and that you should therefore take care of yourself and take the necessary precautions,” he said.

Accessibility to condoms is only one battle
Ienes Angela is an HIV programme manager at the Srikandi Sejati Foundation, helping Bea and other waria get subsidised HIV treatment. A waria herself, she says that greater accessibility to condoms is only one battle. The bigger fight, she believes, is against prejudice. What the waria need from the government is the recognition of their identity in order to help them find jobs beyond the sex trade.

Under Indonesia’s “cacat law” (legislation defining mental disabilities) the department for social affairs classifies the waria as mentally handicapped, hindering the chances of the waria gaining mainstream employment. Ienes says another problem is that official documents define waria as men. If a waria arrives at a job interview dressed as a woman her chances of getting hired are virtually nil. “They don’t think of our capability, only our sexual identity,” she says.

The waria also have difficulties securing national ID cards (Kartu Tanda Penduduk, commonly known as a KTP), which are needed to get free HIV treatment. Rejection by their families is a root cause of this problem. To get a KTP, you need a family card – a document that contains the identity of family members and the order and relationships in the family. But many waria have been kicked out by their families, says Tono Permana, of the Jaringan GWL-INA Network.

Across Indonesia, the obstacles are similar. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission notes that regulations in West Sumatra and West Java equate being a waria or being homosexual to prostitution. Meanwhile, Aceh, an autonomous province that operates under Sharia law, passed a by-law last year punishing homosexual acts with up to eight years in prison, 100 lashes and a fine of up to one kilo of gold. As a result of this discrimination, the majority of waria are confined to working in beauty salons or as sex workers.

Bea has worked as both. She was an assistant at a beauty parlour when she was 17 but left after three years. As a hairdresser she earned Rp 30,000 (£2.13) a day. As a sex worker she earns a little over three times as much – although some nights she goes home empty handed. While Bea was aware of the dangers of sex work she said that at the time it seemed to be the “right choice” – she needed the money and there were no other options. When asked how the government could help her, Bea says without hesitation: “Give me some place to work – anywhere other than the streets.” But for now she continues to stand on Taman Lawang waiting for the cars to stop.