The Universal Periodic Review and LGBTI rights : Indonesia

Indonesia – Yuli Rustinawati, but most of her friends call her Ye, is one of the founders and chairpersons of Arus Pelangi, a national LGBT organization in Indonesia, and one of the national leaders of Forum LGBTIQ Indonesia. She holds a degree in economics and has been a member of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI). In 2005, she assisted the ASEAN Network for Free Election as an observer at the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan.

Patricia Curzi, ILGA UN Officer, interviewed Yuli when they both attended the Indonesia Interactive Dialogue in Geneva in May 2012. Yuli replied to the questions and, in turn, she herself asked questions to Patricia as a representative of ILGA.

You and your team from Arus Pelangi were involved in the NGO Joint Submission of the report for Indonesia’s first UPR. What convinced you to take part in the UPR process?

Over the last five years, Arus Pelangi has been working with human rights organizations, and being part of the human rights movement made us feel stronger. Also, in the past two years many negative incidents have occurred to LGBT people in Indonesia, including: the dismantling of the ILGA Asia conference in Surabaya in March 2010, the attack by the local Islamic Defenders Front on a closed-door human rights training session for transgender persons provided by the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights in April 2010, the fundamentalist Islamic group protests at the Q! Film Festival venues in Jakarta and Yogyakarta in October 2010 and there was trouble at the celebration of IDAHO (International Days against Homophobia) in Jakarta in 2011.

It is the first time that Arus Pelangi is participating in the UPR and we immediately accepted the proposals from human rights groups to collect information on the negative incidents related to LGBT people and advocate together by preparing a joint NGO report for the UPR.

What were the main challenges for your organization in being part of the UPR process?

The main challenge for Arus Pelangi was to collect reliable data on the cases of violence and discrimination experienced by LGBT people. And since it was the first time we participated in this process, it was not clear to us which steps needed to be taken in addition to compiling a report. Assistance by the human rights groups and also by ILGA were important to maximize the work we did around the content of the report, including lobbying some governments to make recommendations and now follow it up, Including to lobby some government officials to make recommendations to Indonesia on LGBT issues, and now that the interactive dialogue is over, follow up with the recommendations proposed to make sure that Indonesia accepts them.

Which lobbying activities did you carry out in Indonesia to raise awareness regarding the report and more specifically about LGBT issues?

Well, before the interactive dialogue between Indonesia and the other States that took place in Geneva on 23 May 2012, we sent the joint NGO report to numerous embassies and to the EU representation in Jakarta. We organized three diplomatic briefings where six embassies were present: UK, the Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, Norway and Morocco. A representative from a group from New Zealand came to our offices and promised to encourage its government to address LGBT issues with Indonesia. We also held a meeting with the embassy from US and together with the organization Protection International we met the Swedish representative in Jakarta.
Finally, we approached national media (Tempo, Jakarta Globe) and held a press conference to raise awareness on the UPR and address issues mentioned in the report. Several articles were published about the Indonesian UPR, even if LGBT issues weren’t mentioned.

How useful was it for you to be in Geneva for the interactive dialogue between Indonesia and other States?

Thanks to our presence in Geneva, supported by ILGA, we were able to better understand how the whole UPR system is working and how civil society organizations can have an impact on government policies. Just after the interactive dialogue between Indonesia and the other States, we were a bit disappointed that only two of them referred to LGBT issues (Spain and Switzerland). But the side event that we organized just after, entitled “Voices from the Ground: Assessing Indonesia’s Human Rights Developments through the UPR” was successful, about 50 people attended, including missions from India, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands. Together with ILGA, we were also able to have a discussion with the Belgian representative. These contacts can be seeds for the future and we will make sure that we continue to follow up with countries committed to addressing LGBT issues.

Which personal experiences do you wish to share with other LGBT groups to encourage them to take part in the UPR process?

I would recommend cooperating with human rights organizations at the national level, though I am aware that this is not always easy. But now that I have experience, I can recognize that the human rights group with whom we worked made our work easier in our country and even in Geneva.

And on a more personal note, I like Geneva, it’s a small, quiet, clean and beautiful city contrary to Jakarta, which is so busy with traffic all the time and everywhere. But Geneva is more expensive than Jakarta. Geneva has a beautiful lake, though unfortunately I could not really enjoy it. I could see it, and enjoyed it for only a few minutes when I was queuing to get my lunch or coffee at Serpentine bar in the United Nations building. I could enjoy Geneva’s beauty only from the bus or tram from my hotel to the UN building. The same with the famous chocolate, I did not have the opportunity to eat it. Ohhh, poor me! But the last day I was in Geneva, before Indonesia’s review recommendations, our group went to the supermarket and finally I bought some chocolate for my lovely friends in Jakarta. I hope that some day I can come again to Geneva and have more time to enjoy this beautiful city.

And now …..Yuli Rustinawati interviews Patricia Curzi

Why did ILGA invite a representative from Arus Pelangi to attend the UPR in Geneva?

ILGA has been involved in the UPR mechanism for some time and is trying to assist its members throughout the entirety of the process in cooperation with other NGOs working at the UN, and especially by providing information prior to the interactive review with other States. ILGA, when requested, will cooperate in the drafting of the NGO report, and facilitate contacts with the EU representation and with government missions in Geneva. When funding is available, ILGA will also support the presence of activists in Geneva for further lobbying and follow-up.

When we received the joint NGO report for Indonesia, we were impressed by its quality and by the fact that there was a whole chapter dedicated to LGBT issues, considering that it was a joint report of 14 different human rights groups. Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in Southeast Asia and we hope to see the respect of LGBT rights be as successful as the country’s economic development.

What do you think about the involvement of Yuli as Arus Pelangi representative in the UPR process in Geneva?

Yuli was involved in all activities, events and lobbying held in Geneva by the Indonesian group of human rights activists that came for the review including meeting with the Indonesian government representatives, discussing the review of Indonesia with various missions and being a panelist at the side event on the Indonesian UPR. The organizing of a side event just after the UPR review of Indonesia was an excellent idea. It was attended by about 50 people and various mission representatives were present. The dedication of the whole team of activists in organizing, advertising and running the event was outstanding. The fact that Yuli was invited to be one of the speakers at the panel to address LGBT issues is a clear indication that LGBT rights are considered to be human rights by a wide range of Indonesian civil society organizations. Yuli addressed this very clearly. Yuli is enthusiastic, well prepared, organized and has a great sense of humour. It was a real pleasure to work with her.

What are ILGA’s hopes for the future?

Before Indonesia is up for review again in four and a half years time ILGA, together with other human rights groups, would like to see further follow up on all the recommendations made to Indonesia, the ones that will be accepted and the ones that, hopefully not too many, were rejected. Keep up with the enthusiasm you showed, as we believe that the interactive UPR session with other States in Geneva is only the beginning of a long way to the recognition of LGBT rights in Indonesia.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a new Human Rights peer review monitoring tool established by the United Nations in 2006. A the first round of all countries was over in 2011, as from June 2012 the second cycle is starting with 42 States being reviewed by other States each year; in a timeframe of four years and a half all the 193 UN member States in the world will have been reviewed. The review consists of four main steps: elaboration of reports; interactive dialogue with member States; adoption of the outcome of recommendations: implementation and follow up. The various procedures involve States, international and national NGOs, national human rights institutes and other stakeholders.

In 2012 the 13th UPR session reviewed Indonesia together with 14 other countries. NGO reports have to be submitted seven months ahead of the Review session.

Source – ILGA Asia