A number of fatwas has recently been issued by the Indonesian Ulemas Forum (MUI) on a range of subjects, from the ‘correct’ praying direction [via CNN], civet coffee [via AFP], TV gossip shows [via AFP] – and, at a meeting of the MUI on Tuesday, sex reaffirmation surgery for trans people [via Spero News].
The Jakarta Globe quotes Ma’ruf Amin, head of the MUI’s fatwa body, as saying that enacting legislation based on Islamic values would address the “degradation of morality among Indonesia’s students”, even though he neglected to provide any evidence of any decline in morality in schools.
As the New York Times points out, the aim of this shift towards formalising fundamentalist views seems to be to provide a right wing minority with the figurative ammunition needed to attack anyone who attracts their ire:
While the council’s edicts are usually ignored, they can be cited by religious hard-liners to justify vigilante-style crackdowns on “un-Islamic” activities. It has recently issued a steady stream of edicts including bans on interfaith marriages, smoking and yoga.
In the light of my earlier post about attacks by members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) on transgender human rights workshops and HIV/AIDS seminars in West Java, this all seems to indicate, at best a muddying of the waters and at worst a worrying deterioration in the situation for transsexual people in Indonesia.
Ni’am Sholeh, deputy secretary of the MUI fatwa Commission, said that “Intentionally made changing of sex without proper scientific reason is morally not allowed. However, we recommended medical doctors to help people to make their genital more perfect We have issued this fatwa to implement sharia.” In Indonesia, shariah is not law and the fatwa is a religious ban, not a legal one. The Indonesian Supreme Court, in fact, allows sex changes. [via Asia News]
Ni’am Sholeh’s analysis fails in at least two ways: first, the implication that genital reconstruction surgery is carried out “without proper scientific reason” has no basis in any reality that I’m aware of. It wilfully ignores the existence of an internationally recognised body of medical evidence which long ago established the significance of these surgeries as part of a comprehensive process to help people minimise and manage their gender dissonance – as well as the fact that, in many countries the implementation of SRS is often governed, or at least guided, by WPATH’s Standards of Care. The second assertion, that the medical profession “help people to make their genital more perfect” is confusing. If your brain was expecting your genitalia to have an entirely different configuration, how would making what exists “more perfect” even be possible, much less desirable?
The worry is, of course, that religion is being used as a platform from which to marginalise and demonise transsexual people, in the process legitimising violent reactions to our existence as well as completely disregarding issues around our bodily autonomy and human rights.
Previous posts about trans and intersex people in Indonesia:
- Indonesia: Trial continues of XXY man for being an XXY man (June 9, 2010)
- XXY man imprisoned for being an XXY man (May 14, 2010)
- Indonesia: Fundamentalist group attacks transgender human rights workshop (May 13, 2010)
- Indonesia: woman mutilated (April 7, 2010)