On 21st September 2021, The UN posted on their Instagram the top 10 countries that already achieved gender equality, but with a twist. None of all the countries in the world already achieved it. Women and LGBTQ+ people still having persecution both from the society, laws, and state apparatus. And in the end, persecution toward sex and gender identity and other related issues will only lead to further discrimination and violence.
This is heartbreaking because one of the UN’s Global Sustainability Development Goals frameworks is to remove all barriers to gender equality. It has been 25 years since they first announced in Beijing, and up until now, we are still having gender equality as one of many among other issues that always hit a hard brick wall even though we already try with all of our might to achieve it.
Now let’s try to get into a narrower scope. Thailand and Indonesia, two countries in ASEAN that are still struggling to fight gender inequality and LGBTQ+ issue.
Most people believe that Thailand is the most progressed country that already reached same-sex and gender equality in ASEAN. Sorry to pop your bubble out, but nope. Even though we often heard the news about how Thailand is LGBTQ+ friendly with its yearly Songkran festival and other festivities, also the news about Suriya Koedsang and his husband, Bas’, a same-sex couple that got married (and unfortunately got trolled online by people from Indonesia on social media) that planted my LGBTQ+ friends an idea to move there to trade vows and get married. The truth is, Thailand still struggling to achieve gender equality. Contrary to popular belief, Thailand does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, unregistered cohabitations, or any other form of same-sex union.
However, in July 2020, the Move Forward Party in Thailand had already pushed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage for public consultation. We can only hope that their struggle to achieve gender equality soon will be finally done in a matter of time and Thailand becoming the first ASEAN country that legalizes same-sex marriage.
In Aceh, Indonesia, there are at least 15 discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people because Aceh has introduced its Islamic Laws. In 2015, a movie titled “Bulu Mata”, is an eye-opening documentary about the situation there since the implementation of its Islamic Laws. The movie takes the point of view of transgender people in Aceh. They are being stigmatized as a group with a deviant sexual orientation viewed based on its Islamic Laws. This group is most often the target of the Wilayatul Hisbah, also known as The Sharia police because of their identity as transgender.
Other discrimination in Aceh happened In 2017. Two men are punished by caning 83 times each because they violating the Islamic Laws, engaging in same-sex relationships. Other punishments for those people that are being suspected of violating The Sharia law are fine with gold and imprisonment.
In my interview on 2020 with Ris Carolina, Director of Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies Indonesia, from the research she has been done with Arus Pelangi to write the book “Catatan Kelam 12 Tahun Persekusi LGBT di Indonesia”, from 2006 to 2018 there are 45 local policies that lead to 17 persecution and discriminate LGBTQ+ people with at least 1850 victims because of it. Ris said there is a huge possibility that plenty of LGBTQ+ people were being persecuted because of that local policies but have not yet been found. And subsequently, if no one acts to do something to stop this, more victims will continue to increase in each year passing.
And she is right.
The murder of Mira, a transgender who is burned to death in North Jakarta, and a prank by Youtuber Ferdian Paleka that delivered a garbage-filled box disguised as an “aid” package for transgender in Bandung just so happened after my interview with Ris. These cases have massive backlash from people, mainly LGBTQ+ advocacy. They protested that again and again, LGBTQ+ people got discrimination against with no law whatsoever that would protect and uphold them from this kind of incident again in the future.
This year, transgender people in Indonesia were finally able to apply for civil forms to receive their citizenship documents such as E-KTP, KK, SIM, and BPJS. Although, while this is undoubtedly progress for the transgender community, it must be noted that Indonesia is not even close to recognizing gender fluidity by any means. It is because they must use their deadname and there is still no transgender choice to fill the name, and sex and gender column. Transgender people in Indonesia will remain vulnerable to discrimination because their identity is still considered invalid among the majority.
LGBTQ+ persecution is very systematic and widespread that leads to discrimination and violence that further marginalizes the LGBTQ+ groups into the brink of poverty, voicelessness, powerless, and vulnerability. The Government and the people of every country have to be the key party in almost all human rights instruments to enforce gender equality and to demolish the persecution of LGBTQ+ and other related issues. But as we know it, the UN has stated with their post on Instagram indicates that the fulfillment of the rights of the LGBTQ+ group in the world is still far behind to achieve gender equality. Instead of protecting their people, the state apparatus, laws, and society are participating in doing discrimination and violence toward LGBT+ groups.
At the end of the day, although gender equality is nowhere to be seen in the near future, I believe that if we keep trying to form steady solid solidarity among all of us, joining hands together not only for reaching out but also to support each other toward LGBTQ+ groups, we can achieve gender equality that we and The UN are aiming for.
“‘What is wrong with Indonesia?’: trolls flood Thai couple’s gay wedding photos with death threats, ‘videos of slaughter’ in cross-cultural flame war”. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
“Move Forward Party to push bill granting same-sex marriage in Thailand”. Thai Enquirer.com. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
“Bulu Mata, film transgender karya sineas Klaten peraih Piala Citra”. Solo Pos.com. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
“Indonesian men caned for gay sex in Aceh”. BBC.com. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
“Trans woman burned to death in North Jakarta”. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
“YouTuber who pranked transwomen with garbage-filled ‘aid’ packages freed, settles case with victims”. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
“Beri layanan e-ktp kepada transgender, Kemendagri: tak boleh ada diskriminasi”. Kompas.com. Retrived 22 September 2021.