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Learning Indonesian Human Rights Issues at Komnas HAM


03 June 2016

By: Sajun Basha

The Discussion

Just recently, I was asked if I wanted to come along to attend an event by the staff of Intermatrix Communications, the office in which I am currently having my internship in Jakarta. And I said yes. As it turned out, the event was a national event held in the main office of Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in which Wimar Witoelar, the owner of Intermatrix, was invited tobe its discussion moderator. So on the 1 st June of 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a launching of a report by the Komnas HAM on minority groups rights in Indonesia. It was a forum to discuss about how to protect minorities all over the country.

Rina Prasarani Alamsyah, disscussion participant.


The initial research led by M.Nurkhoiron from Komnas HAM has established five types of minorities that the Indonesian government should consider in devising future government policies. These five groups are sexual orientation and identity minorities, racial, ethnic, disability-based, religious and faith minorities. For this purpose, not only Komnas HAM researchers had an open speech about the current situation that minorities are facing in an everyday life but we also heard from people who are part of those minorities groups, giving us testimony of their struggles to fit in the society.

The testimonies heard throughout the forum helped me to gain more understanding in Indonesia human rights issues. One of which is the situation that LGBT people have to deal with in their daily lives. One testifier, Mohamad Safiq, came all the way from Brebes to Jakarta in order to be able to share his experience. Being gay was difficult for him in trying to get a religious education in his hometown during his formative years. The boarding school refused to facilitate his needs as gay to live in the female boarding school compound (he has difficulties in living together day to day with other male students).

In Europe, LGBT community is also confronting various issues albeit the issues are different. Long considered as a crime, homosexuality was finally legalized in the 90s and now LGBT people have the right to get married and adopt children. One of the main problems that have not been resolved yet in Europe is the right to donate blood.

Minorities other than LGBT who are not considered as “normal” are prone to be stigmatized and treated differently. I learned from Komnas HAM forum that Indonesian national identity card is also a battle ground of human rights recognition. People of indigenous faiths, whose believes do not fall into the category of one of the 5 main known religions, are unable to have their believes mentioned in the card, thus unable to access many related public administration facilities.

And that’s what I happen to learn from what I initially thought as a simple visit to an ordinary event (which was not). I suppose there will always be more and more things for me to learn about this country other than its delicacies. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take anything away from Indonesian culinary diversity. I’m still a fan of a plate of sate ayam.

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