Archive for the 'Indonesia' Category

Indonesia: Fatwa against SRS announced

July 29, 2010

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

I wrote recently about Alterina Hofan, a chromosomally atypical (47,XXY) man who stands accused of falsifying his identity. The prosecution alleges that Alterina is a female who swapped gender status to male in 2006, while the defence claims he has always been a man but that his genitalia developed late because of Klinefelter’s syndrome.

Alterina identifies himself as a man and, after years of medical intervention and surgery, married Jane Hadipoespito. However, Jane’s parents denounced the marriage and filed this lawsuit against Alterina for fraud because his birth certificate, ID and family cards stated that he was a woman.

Via The Jakarta Post, I read that the trial continued on Monday with the judge collecting statements from the prosecutors’ witnesses, including government officials who:

[…] confirmed they received necessary documents, including birth certificate, from Alterina in 2007, as part of requirements to process the issuance of a family card.

“The birth certificate needed to make the family card stating Alterina was a male. Nothing was wrong,” one witness said.

Another of Alterina’s lawyers, Raymond Ratu Taga, said his client had followed every procedure to change his sex status to male.

“With the help of his mother, Alterina made the sex-status change on Dec. 18, 2006 in Jayapura, Papua, as he was born there,” he said, adding his client had never had any sex change surgery.


I imagine that Alterina could well do without the interjections from Benny Susetyo, secretary to the Indonesian Bishops’ Council (KWI), who is quoted (again, in The Jakarta Post) as follows:

“The Catholic Church bans marriage between people of the same sex”

Which is about the degree of intelligence and compassion I’ve come to expect from the Catholic Church; Mr Susetyo’s demonstration of his complete lack of understanding of intersex variations would be merely embarrassing were it not for the fact that, for whatever reason, the views espoused by his Church appear to carry some weight within the Republic of Indonesia, a pluralist country with a majority Muslim population.

Benny said the health problem could not justify the change in sex status. “Her [sic] DNA and genetics prove she [sic] is female, therefore she [sic] can be medically cured,” the priest said.

No, Mr Susetyo, his DNA and genetics prove that he is a 47XXY man and not that he is female. As I said last time:

It’s really quite frightening that non-intersex people have the power to ignore fundamental human rights in pursuit of the violent imposition of a socially constructed gender binary.

The trial continues and, notwithstanding the dangerously medieval attitudes of people like Mr Susetyo, I hope Alterina receives a just and fair treatment which respects his human right to bodily autonomy.

Alterina Hofan (Image via The Jakarta Globe)


Previous related posts:

Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:

XXY man imprisoned for being an XXY man

May 14, 2010

People with a 47,XXY chromosomal atypicality (also known simply as XXY, or Klinefelter’s Syndrome) often find themselves caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The karyotype and its manifestations may not be considered (by some) to be an intersex variation, or it may be assumed that XXY refers only to ‘XY men’ with an extra X chromosome with no allowance made for the possibility that there may be ‘XX women’ who have an extra Y chromosome.

As I wrote in my recent post about KS Awareness Week:

That there is no clear agreement about whether or not KS is an intersex variation is a useful reminder that the boundaries of the dominant sex and gender binaries are not as easily defined as many people would like. It once again highlights that enforced normalisation (XXY people are often “treated” by means of breast surgery and long-term testosterone treatment) is nothing more or less than the policing of socially constructed boundaries by medical professionals in order to uphold cultural stereotypes of what is meant by male and female.

Alterina Hofan of Jakarta is currently having to navigate these complex and difficult circumstances, to the point of being subjected to the full force of the law as a result of his wife’s parents’ alleging document fraud – even though the actions of the authorities seem to be in breach of Alterina’s human rights. Via The Jakarta Post:

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.

Alterina has the backing of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which views the case as an example of the state’s failure to protect Alterina’s rights. Josep Adi Prasetyo of Komnas HAM cites an international convention on civil and political rights that guarantees people’s rights of their identity and which 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.

It’s really quite frightening that non-intersex people have the power to ignore fundamental human rights in pursuit of the violent imposition of a socially constructed gender binary. In addition, the blinkered ignorance of Alterina’s in-laws (and the authorities) of the ways in which intersex people may not easily be forced into one of two narrow categories is highlighted by Alterina’s wife Jane who has said that she doesn’t really care that Alterina’s documents don’t match his identity.

“All I want is for my husband to be freed as soon as possible,” she said.

Alterina’s first trial hearing is scheduled for Monday and I hope he at last receives a just and fair treatment which respects his human right to bodily autonomy.


Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:

Indonesia: Fundamentalist group attacks transgender human rights workshop

May 13, 2010

Via email from Kamilia, Excecutive Director of Institut Pelangi Perempuan (Indonesian Youth Lesbian Center) comes the disturbing news of three recent attacks by members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) on transgender human rights workshops and HIV/AIDS seminars in West Java.

Dear all,

I just got an information, last night May 11, Islamic Defender Forum again attacked HIV/AIDS seminar in Bandung West Java. One of the participant wrote on mailing list said that they all fine at this moment and just stay in the hotel room for their safety. Within a month, it’s been 3 times they attacked LGBT groups in Indonesia.

The last incident happened several days ago in Depok West Java, transgender group hold a human rights workshop attacked by Islamic Defender Forum. it was actually organized by National Human Rights commission and one of the speaker is the commissioner, and they could not do anything at that time. It is too ironic even police asked the National Human Rights commission to leave the workshop. You can see this video of how fundamentalist groups attacked LGBT people on ILGA Asia conference in Surabaya Indonesia and Transgender group workshop in Depok West Java.

YouTube link:

YouTube link:

Sass Rogando Sasot, who forwarded Kamilia’s email, adds:

According to the news:

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.

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.

The FPI is the same fundamentalist group that forced the cancellation of the ILGA-Asia Conference in March.

BBC profiles FPI in the same light as other radical groups in Indonesia.
Here’s the link:

For the news coverage about this incident, please visit:

  2. –> this is the video of how FPI raided the workshop (as you will see the police just allowed it to happen!)

Indonesia: woman mutilated

April 7, 2010

Via the Jakarta Post:

Last week, local residents found a headless torso and severed body parts believed to be of a young woman, along the Kalimalang River.

Jakarta Police detectives suspect the person, whose mutilated remains were found recently in the Kalimalang River in East Jakarta and Bekasi, may have been a transsexual.

The police reached this conclusion by the following line of reasoning:

“Although the body has breasts, our forensic investigation found that the proportional size from the waist down was close to that of a male body,” Comr. Arif Setiawan, the city police’s detective, who is leading the mutilation case investigation, told reporters. [Via]

Thus are we indelibly marked as our assigned gender by cis people, even after we’ve been violently murdered because, as everybody knows, biology is destiny.


(Thanks to Eduarda in comments on my previous post for the links)


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia