Recognizing that LGBTQIA people in the Philippines affect, or are affected by LGBTQIA-related developments in other parts of the world, Outrage Magazine is featuring the LGBTQIA activists who try to effect changes to better the lives of LGBTQIA people in their countries.
Chairperson, Arus Pelangi
National Coordinator, Forum LGBTIQ Indonesia
Yuli Rustinawati started to advocate for LGBTIQ rights in Indonesia in 2006, at the same time when Arus Pelangi, the Indonesian Federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, was established. She is currently the chairperson of Arus Pelangi and the national coordinator of Forum LGBTIQ Indonesia.
Yuli believes that the Indonesia LGBTIQ community must see their issues as human rights issues.
“For a long time, LGBTIQ persons have lived with stigma, and have faced discrimination, bullying, and violence on a daily basis. No one cared because they believed that LGBTIQs deserve it because they are sinners, abnormal, or are against religion. Most LGBTIQs are still afraid to speak up. But now, the time has come to stand up and speak up,” Yuli said.
The struggle for equality and non-discrimination in Indonesia goes back to 1969.
“A transgender organization was the first organization that was established in Indonesia in 1969. It was called HIWAD (Himpunan Wadan Djakarta) and was established in Jakarta,” Yuli said.
HIWAD was inaugurated by Governor of Jakarta, but at that time, it was mostly working on cultural entertainment.
It was in the 1980s when gay and lesbian communities in Indonesia started to form in a political sense.
“In 1982, the gay community was established. In 1984, the lesbian community was also established. But both of them did not last long for various reasons,” Yuli said.
Other gay and transgender organizations started forming around this time, specifically focusing on HIV, though still not on LGBTIQ rights. And while some lesbian organizations also started to form, all these organizations faced organizational issues.
“It is not easy to bring the LGBT rights issue when everyone around you think that it is not important. Many LGBTs think they are in a safe space, though they actually aren’t. And many LGBTs have been rejected for (wanting to have a) safe place. Talking about rights will bring an LGBT person in trouble,” Yuli said.
The lacking response to the hard realities faced by LGBTIQ Indonesians brought about the founding of Arus Pelangi. Seven out of the 10 founders of Arus Pelangi were working for a legal aid institution in Jakarta, and in 2005, they started to handle cases of LGBT Indonesians who faced discrimination and violence.
“Arus Pelangi is first organization in Indonesia to work for LGBTIQ rights. Most of gay and trangsender persons, communities or organizations do not believe that LGBTs cannot work together because of having different needs, thus cannot be united. We have proved that we can work together under a rights-based approach,” Yuli said.
Arus Pelangi is an umbrella organization comprising of individual, organizations, and honorary members. Since Arus Pelangi’s establishment, LGBT organizations who advocate for their rights started to form one by one in small cities and provinces across Indonesia.
Recognizing that their emergence is itself is already a triumph, not to mention the organization’s gathering of LGBT people, Yuli knows there is much more that needs to be done.
“No one can take away your rights, your freedom just because you are LGBT,” Yuli said. “We need to change society in these times. Let us be patient. We should deliver our messages over and over again. We all should work hand in hand to stand up and speak up.”