Indonesian police have apparently ruled out murder charges for a group of thugs who burned a transgender woman alive.
The group attacked a 42-year-old woman named Mira in Cilincing, which is an historic district in the north of Jakarta.
The attack happened on Saturday (4 April) and Mira died in hospital the next day.
The gang were running informal security for truck drivers parked in the neighborhood. A driver had parked outside Mira’s home and accused her of stealing his cellphone and wallet.
She and her neighbors protested her innocence and they couldn’t find the items when they searched her. However the gang got increasingly angry and doused her with petrol, threatening to burn her if she didn’t confess.
Then one of them dropped a match or lighter, setting her ablaze.
Maximum 12 years in jail
Police now say they have identified six suspects and arrested three of them.
But Reuters reports that North Jakarta police chief Budhi Herdi Susianto says the gang did not intend to burn her.
Therefore, rather than facing murder charges, police may only charge them with physical violence. That carries a maximum sentence of 12 years.
Usman Hamid, the Indonesian representative of Amnesty International, told Reuters it seemed too early for the police to conclude that there was no intent to set the woman on fire.
Moreover, Andreas Harsono, of Human Rights Watch, said Mira’s death comes against a backdrop of increasing violence and hostility to LGBT+ people in Indonesia. Harsono added:
‘Thousands of transgender women, gay men or lesbian women have been humiliated in Indonesia these past few years.’
Demand for Indonesia to protect minorities
Now Australian equality activists have written to the Indonesian authorities, demanding a full police investigation.
Australian Transgender Support Organisation Queensland (ATSOQ), together with national advocacy group, Just.Equal, sent the letter to the Indonesian President and Ambassador.
In it, they ask for a full investigation, action against LGBT+ hate crime and respect for LGBT+ human rights.
Secretary of ATSOQ, Krissy Johnson, said,
‘We stand in solidarity with transgender people across Indonesia at what must be a time of great sorrow and fear.
‘We urge Australians who support human rights to write to the Indonesian authorities and ask for a thorough investigation of this horrific crime and tougher action against all anti-LGBTIQ hate crime.’
And Just.Equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome said:
‘At a time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have a duty to ensure fear and uncertainty do not trigger hatred and violence against traditionally-stigmatised minorities.
‘Indonesia is one of the world’s largest democracies and its leadership against hate crime will echo around the world.’
Increasing LGBT+ hostility
LGBT+ people have few rights in Indonesia and no discrimination protections. Trans people have the right to change gender with surgery and judicial approval.
Meanwhile homosexuality is legal in most parts of the country. But the state of Aceh punishes gay sex with floggings and it is also criminalized in a few other areas.
Moreover, there is increasing hostility towards the community. Police have been using pornography laws to persecute LGBT+ people. And politicians are pushing for further criminalization.