A precedent-setting 200 people gathered in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on December 10, 2008, for an event commemorating Human Rights Day and the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The event involved two panel discussions on LGBT human rights—the first on violence against LGBT people in Indonesia and the second on sexual orientation as a human right. Those who attended the event came from the women's movement, human rights NGOs, LGBT movement, and HIV/AIDS and healthcare rights movements—setting another precedent, as rarely has an event on LGBT issues attracted an audience drawn from such diverse constituencies.
As part of IGLHRC’s observance of this day, Asia program staff worked with local activists in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to create and launch the Yogyakarta Principles Banner celebrating the rights of sexual minority women. The banner was launched in an indoor ribbon-cutting ceremony in Yogyakarta. It includes panels of fabric with artwork and solidarity messages from LGBT groups based in China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand. The center of the banner features a large, colorfully painted image of a dandelion dispersing seeds and the words, Our Sexualities, Our Genders, Our Bodies: Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender RIGHTS!
The events in Yogyakarta and banner activities kicked off IGLHRC’s contribution to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.1 Originally, organizers planned for the banner to travel from Thailand to the Philippines and finally to Indonesia where it would be launched as part of the Human Rights Day celebrations. However, two major airport shutdowns and anti-government clashes with police in Bangkok kept the banner from traveling to Thailand for the inaugural Human Rights Day for Sexual Diversity festivities in Bangkok. Fortunately, the celebration in Thailand went off without any problems and Thai activists report the event was attended by key figures in government and from the national human rights commission, and also by 100 marchers carrying rainbow-colored umbrellas.
In the Philippines, the banner was paraded through the streets for Manila Pride. Christian fundamentalist protesters greeted Pride participants and yelled homophobic insults even as LGBT activists confronted them. Some activists, including IGLHRC’s Asia Projects Coordinator, Ging Cristobal, infiltrated the line of fundamentalists and displayed LGBT-affirmative signs amidst placards calling for divine punishment of homosexuals. The peaceful confrontation drew press cameras and cheers from parade participants.
In Indonesia, anxiety over Islamist backlash particularly after the passage of the Pornography Law in November 2008, discouraged LBT women organizers from holding a street march. Instead, Indonesian lesbian and transgender activists held a small peace demonstration, which was also attended by activists from Thailand and the Philippines, and by IGLHRC staff. Demonstrators stood at the roadside with a banner calling for an end to violence against LGBT people. Some of the participants walked into stopped traffic at a busy intersection, handing out long-stemmed red roses with messages advocating an end to violence against LGBT people; drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and scooterists seemed surprised and glad to receive them.
Yogyakarta is known for its religious and cultural tolerance and is governed by a sultan and princess who favor pluralism, including gender and sexual diversity. However, even the royal family was unable to guarantee protection to LGBT activists and advised a low-key public event.
The Yogyakarta Principles Banner and video footage of the Human Rights Day activities will be featured prominently in the documentary on Asian LBT struggles and activism that IGLHRC is co-producing with Lesbian Advocates Philippines. IGLHRC will keep you posted on this documentary that is slated for release later in 2009.
By linking the activism and struggles of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender (LBT) communities to the 16 Days of Activism, IGLHRC emphasized that many social justice movements, including women’s movements, marginalize sexual minority women.
Published on February 17, 2009 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization