Sunday, February 15, 2009

A “Small” Violence Echoes Through Amnesty International & The UN

My Zimbio
Top Stories
Vast, sprawling, cosmopolitan and chaotic, Jakarta is no place for the faint of heart. Holed up in the Park Lane Hotel in the city’s Golden Triangle, we eagerly await our next round of LGBT activists who agree to meet us for dinner and conversation. At the mercy of overwhelming traffic and various pressing commitments, Chika, Afank and Toyo find their way to us for an evening that includes revelations, information and a unique perspective we could never have uncovered without them. Both Chika and Afank exude a confidence and strength that immediately sets them apart. Chika is the Program Officer for Kartini Asia ( and active in Jakarta’s Q! Film Festival (, now threatened by a new Indonesian anti-pornography law that brands any material with LGBT content as illegal, and Afank is the Coordinator of Organization and Capacity Building for the Ardhanary Institute ( Afank, direct and plain spoken, with a ready laugh, she seems quite at ease with her sexuality and for the first time is bringing a girlfriend home to meet her family. But perhaps, the most well-known of the group is Toyo (Hartoyo) whose electric energy lights up the room and bounces off the walls as he descends the staircase to our table at Café One.

His story is every LGBT person’s nightmare: In January, 2007, while working for the tsunami relief effort in Banda Aceh, he and a friend are pulled from their lodging, threatened and beaten by an angry mob. Turned over to the police, incarceration and more beatings and torture follow. And why do all these horrors take place? Because they are gay. It is that simple and yet that hard to understand. As a parting gesture they are forced to sign a statement to refrain from homosexual activity in the future. Toyo now lives in Jakarta and has started an organization called Our Voice.

A shadow falls across Toyo’s face and his natural enthusiasm turns somber for a moment as he speaks about the past. “I cannot speak about my experience in Banda Aceh because I am very sad and very angry,” he says. A lawsuit against the police and the ensuing court decision, handed down in October 2008, do little to alleviate those feelings. The police are wrong in their actions, it says, but the incident is viewed only as a “small” violence that results in a three month sanction against the department with no real consequences and no punishment for the police perpetrators.

After the legal proceedings the judge has this advice for Toyo: “Stop your gay activity or you will bring about another tsunami.” On the upside, Amnesty International has taken an interest in Toyo’s case and will work to ensure that future incidents of this kind do not occur. Later this month Toyo will travel to a conference at the United Nations in New York as a representative of a coalition of Indonesian NGO’s where he will speak on behalf of his country’s LGBT community.

We ask what his big wish is for the future and Toyo replies: “In Indonesia there needs to be a specific policy for LGBT rights. Because in Indonesia right now there are no protections for LGBT people.”

Photo: Afank, Robert, Toyo and Chika in Jakarta 2/13/09

No comments: