Transgender community lies low as intimidation intensifies
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The transgender community has been keeping out of sight in the wake of rising intimidation from the unruly Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the National Police’s reluctance to protect them, activists have said.
Merlyn Sofyan, a transgender activist, said on Wednesday that transgender groups across the archipelago had unwillingly cut down their social and educational events during the past two years amid fears that no one would protect them from extremists in the fire-brand group.
“Our situation has been relatively stagnant. The police have not been cooperative. They know that the FPI threatens us, but they make only small efforts,” she told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview.
Merlyn, who is also the 2006 Miss Transgender Indonesia, suggested that the crisis might continue following the forceful closure of a cultural transgender festival by the FPI on Monday in Jakarta.
The organizer of the Indonesian Transgender Communication Forum said the police, who witnessed the forcible closure, were reluctant to help the 200 or so transgender people when dozens of FPI members stormed their annual festival.
“The FPI said that we had no permit for the event. In fact, we had sent letters requesting a permit to the Jakarta Police, the South Jakarta Police and the Setiabudi police precinct. But, they didn’t respond,” the forum’s chairperson, Yulianus Rettoblaut, said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Yulianus suggested that the police may have themselves been intimidated by the FPI.
“Days before the festival, an officer from Setiabudi police rang and ordered me to call off the show because the FPI was planning to attack us,” she said.
Maruli Tua Rajagukguk from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said that police had violated human rights by declining to issue the permit.
“They can only ban an event if it has a negative purpose or threatens national stability and security. Why did they ban this activity? The community only wanted to stage a cultural performance,” he said, referring to the 2005 ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Commenting on the matter, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto insisted that the transgender forum was not authorized to go ahead.
“The police suggested that the event should not be carried out … We assess every activity and if we deem the purpose to be negative, we will not allow it,” he said on Tuesday.
Maruli said the YLBHI would assist the transgender forum to report the attack to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
“We urge Komnas HAM to demand an explanation from the Jakarta Police chief [Insp. Gen. Putut Eko Bayuseno] and put pressure on the police to take stern action,” he said.
Yulianus was unsure, however, whether the perpetrators would ever be brought to court.
“Just look at the FPI assault in 2010. To this day, there have been no arrests. The police seem reluctant to pursue such a case,” she said.
She was referring to the raid by the hard-line group to a human rights training workshop for transgender individuals, jointly organized by Komnas HAM and the transgender forum, in Depok, West Java.
When the Post contacted FPI spokesman Munarman, he declined to comment. (yps/aml)