International Day of Democracy; Transgender People's Right to Vote Is Still Denied
26 September 2022 14:46 WIB
Losing Voice for Being Different
Tens of thousands of transgender people are threatened with losing their right to vote in the 2024 General Elections due to a lack of citizen documents. Those who are evicted from their homeland because of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) label face more problems. Together with Jaring.id, Koran Tempo met with a number of transgender groups in several regions, including Yogyakarta and East Nusa Tenggara, ahead of International Democracy Day which falls every September 15.
Deserted in Democracy Party
Ahead of the 2024 General Elections, transgender groups are still at risk of not having access to vote. Besides being excluded from families, their political rights are abolished.
Exactly on International Day of Democracy, Thursday, September 15, 2022, transgender groups are still excluded from Indonesian politics. More than tens of thousands of transgender women lose their right to vote along with being stripped of their identity as Indonesian citizens. They are only seen as spectators, entertainers, or even propaganda communities in the frenzy of general elections and regional head elections.
For three months starting June 2022, Koran Tempo and Jaring.id collaborated on special coverage to take a closer look at the situation faced by transgender women in a number of regions. The team met with them in Jakarta, Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Nusa Tenggara. Remote interviews were also conducted with leaders of the transgender community in West Java, Bali, and Aceh. This is the first of the two series of special coverage on transgender women in the vortex of politics.
This collaborative report was made possible thanks to the Nusantara Media Development Association (PPMN) and The Asia-Pacific Regional Support for Elections and Political Transitions (RESPECT). The program also involved the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Lafaek News (Timor Leste).
“I was exiled, not protected.”
Jeny broke down in tears again as she recalled her early days in Yogyakarta almost two decades ago. At that time, the courtyard of Lempuyangan Station was her home. The junction of Prambanan Temple used to be the source of her livelihood as a street performer for years.
Jeny touched down in Yogyakarta in 2003, indeed not for travel. She was evicted from her home in Subang, West Java. The family objected to her choice to be a transgender woman. Jeny was assigned male at birth 39 years ago and named Nendi. “My family is the first people who discriminate against me, then society. I'm a human being who is not being taken care of,” said Jeny, when met at the headquarters of the Yogyakarta Transgender Family.
Throughout the day, on Tuesday, August 30, Jeny repeatedly shed tears. She did not regret her gender choice. Yet in the last seven years, she realized that living in “exile” since her youth had practically made her lose her identity as an Indonesian citizen.
For almost two decades, she lived without a single citizen document. During that time, Jeny never got her rights as a citizen, including in politics. “I can’t vote during SBY’s two office terms and Jokowi’s two office terms,” said Jeny, adding that paralegal training held by the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) back in 2015 made her understand political rights. “I was not aware of this before, focusing on getting food and living.”
Since then, Jeny claimed she encountered difficulties in applying for an identity card or KTP. Her three applications submitted to the Population and Civil Registration Office of Sleman Regency failed. She could not fulfill a number of requirements, including the recommendation letter to change her domicile. To manage this, she had to return to Subang. “The officers didn't know that my family didn’t want to accept me,” she said.
Her hard efforts fortunately paid off in August last year. Through a citizen advocacy program held by Suara Kita, Jeny finally obtained an ID card. With an identity card, she could have a bank card, a taxpayer identification number or NPWP, and a membership card of the national health insurance (BPJS).
Suara Kita is an organization that provides advocacy for equality and justice to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) groups. In recent years, Suara Kita has been actively lobbying the Ministry of Home Affairs to address problems faced by trans women like Jeny. “The main issues include the citizenship identification number and KTP,” said Hartoyo, a coordinator of Suara Kita, on Sunday, June 12.
The Ministry of Home Affairs started to be progressive in issuing ID cards for trans women. Transgender people are categorized along with victims of natural disasters, indigenous communities in remote areas, neglected and extremely poor people, people with mental disorders, and people with disabilities, as vulnerable groups in the access to citizenship services.
On August 26, 2021, the Directorate General of Population and Civil Registration issued Circular Letter Number 470/11320/Dukcapil regarding data collection and issuance of administrative documents for transgender residents. The circular addressed to all population and civil registration offices was claimed to guarantee the ease and equality of treatment for trans women in administering ID cards.
The implementation, however, was problematic. Hartoyo said it depended on the sensitivity of the local government to trans women. Consequently, not all trans women could be lucky as Jeny.
The initial data collection of Suara Kita estimated that there were 32,991 transgender people across the country. But only 4,742 have owned ID cards by far. This means only one in seven trans women has citizen documents. “Together with local communities, we are conducting data collection so trans women can immediately get an ID card,” said Hartoyo.