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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Transgender Indonesians suffer police violence, discrimination

Alterina Hofan
Source: The Jakarta Post

By Ika Krismantari

Modern Jakarta is still no place for transgender people with the authorities reluctant in granting protection to the rights of individuals, whose gender and identity do not conform to society’s values, an anlayst and rights activist said.

“There is still an apparent lack of awareness among the authorities, especially the police, on how to handle this specific issue,” sociologist Siti Hidayati Amal said recently.

This view, Siti added, has led to police using violence in dealing with the transgender people because their lack of knowledge has prompted them to see these groups as abnormal.

Police also seem to turn a blind eye to people assaulting transvestites in the name of religion or community.

All penitentiary complexes in Jakarta are made strictly made for men and women, without special facilities given to transgender people, leading to confusion as to where to incarcerate these individuals.

The recent case of Alterina Hofan highlighted the authority’s unpreparedness in dealing with this issue.

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.

Josep Adi Prasetyo of the National Commision on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), views the case as an example of the state’s failure in protecting people’s rights.

He referred to an international convention on civil and political rights that guaranteed people’s rights of their identity. The convention 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.

Alterina’s wife Jane said that she did not really care.

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

Alterina’s first trial hearing is scheduled next Monday.

A recent human rights training for transgender people in Depok, south of Jakarta, was broken up by the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI).
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