The Jakarta Post
The heinous fate that befell Mira, a 42-year-old trans woman who was burned to death in Cilincing, North Jakarta, has prompted activists and advocacy groups to demand justice as they urge authorities to bring those responsible for the brutal slaying before the law.
Human rights activists grouped under the Crisis Response Mechanism (CRM) have launched a solidarity action named “A Thousand Candles for Mira”, which encourages people to post a video of them lighting candles in their respective homes and to convey statements of condolences for Mira on social media.
The CRM is a community network comprising various groups that include Arus Pelangi, Sanggar Waria Remaja (Swara) and the Union of Journalists for Diversity (Sejuk), whose members are spread throughout the country.
Sejuk program manager Tantowi Anwari said the online campaign was aimed at not only showing solidarity but also demanding justice for the transgender community, which has been subjected to discrimination, to the point of claiming lives.
“This vicious act happened not because of an allegation that Mira stole a wallet and so on, but because of the strong stigma against transgender people that allows these terrible thugs to violently bully them,” Tantowi told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Through the solidarity movement, the CRM wants to invite everyone to force Mira’s case to its proper conclusion because violence against transgender groups often ends in a lack of justice, he said.
Mira was beaten and burned alive by six men in a container truck parking lot in Cilincing on April 4 after they accused her of stealing a phone and wallet from a truck driver who had parked his vehicle near Mira’s rented room.
The North Jakarta Police, however, said the suspects had no intention to kill Mira and that they pulled out a lighter in order to force her to admit her crime, but the flame from the lighter inadvertently set alight the gasoline they had doused over her.
The police had apprehended three of the six suspects, identified only as AP, RT and AH, as of Thursday last week. Meanwhile, three other suspects, PD, AB, and IQ, remain at large.
The legal advocacy team for Mira’s case – which comprises members of several rights groups including Swara – condemned the violence that resulted in her death, calling it “a form of transphobia”.
LGBT rights group Suara Kita took part in fundraising, mainly among its internal circle and from NGOs, by collecting used goods and reselling them in order to cover Mira’s hospital and funeral fees, as well as to support the paralegal team working on her case.
“We have made about Rp 6.8 million [US$432] from that and we hope the fundraising will continue as long as the legal work is still ongoing,” Suara Kita executive board member Teguh Iman Affandi told the Post.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said it would be monitoring the investigation into Mira’s death as it also planned to send a letter to the North Jakarta Police to request an explanation of the progress as well as the plan for further investigation.
Komnas HAM commissioner Beka Ulung Hapsara said he wanted to clarify the statement from the police who said they would not charge the killers with murder, and to ascertain whether the reported decision was correct.
“I have read the North Jakarta Police statement that they would not use the law on murder. We must clarify this decision and analyze whether it is necessary to later carry out on-field investigations and recheck the facts,” Beka said.
Beka argued that the abuse of Mira might have been caused by the continuous intolerance toward LGBT people, and he said the same stigma should not pervade law enforcement.
“We will also inform the police that we are ready to intervene to oversee the legal process so that it is as complete and fair as possible,” he added.
National Police Commission (Kompolnas) member Poengky Indarti said she had asked the Jakarta Police to ensure all the perpetrators in Mira’s case were punished appropriately since the crimes they had committed were regarded as “barbaric”.
“This is a discriminatory act with a very high level of brutality. They must not be charged under articles that carry light [punishment] that would definitely not have a deterrent effect,” said Poengky.
North Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Budhi Herdi Susianto was not immediately available to provide a statement when contacted by the Post on Tuesday.