21 November 2010

Transgenders battle for license to live a decent life

Jakarta Globe - November 18, 2010

Nurfika Osman, Jakarta -- Many transgenders are finding little sympathy from the government as they struggle to obtain vitally important ID cards.

The national ID card, known as the KTP, is required for everything from getting a driver's license and applying for a loan to enrolling at a school and registering to vote. It is also required when seeking medical treatment 
at state and private hospitals.

Many transgenders are denied a KTP because ward officials refuse to register them under the gender they choose to identify with.Ourvoice is a group that lobbies for the rights of marginalized groups such as sex workers and people living with HIV/AIDS. Its secretary, Hartoyo, said on Thursday that being deprived of a KTP threatened the health of people from such groups.

"When you do not have a KTP, access to health care becomes more difficult," he said at a press conference to mark World Transgender Day on Saturday.

"Meanwhile, these people are among the key groups most prone to HIV/AIDS infections." Hartoyo said because they could not get the cards, many transgenders were being denied HIV/AIDS treatment. "All they can do is wait for their condition to worsen," he said.

Hartoyo also lamented the state of poverty most transgenders were forced to endure. "When a transgender is poor, the condition is worse than for other people because not many people want to help them," he said.

Of the estimated 3,000 transsexuals in Jakarta, half did not have an ID card, he said, quoting figures from the Transsexual Communication Forum. "They face layers of oppression, stigma and denial of access to welfare," Hartoyo said.

He said very few male-to-female transgenders finished school because headmasters prohibited them from dressing like females. "For transgenders, the job market is limited to beauty parlors and entertainment," Hartoyo said, adding this restriction also fueled the poverty problem. "You can't 
work in other fields."

An estimated 24 percent of all Indonesians living with HIV/AIDS are transsexuals, according to 2007 data from the Health Ministry and the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

Sujana Rojat, head of the National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM) at the Coordinating Ministry for People's Welfare, said the ministry had planned a program, PNPM Peduli, to ensure easy access to health care and education for groups at high risk of HIV/AIDS.

"These people have the potential to help develop our country, so we have to treat them fairly," Sujana said.

Desy Mutialim, a World Bank official in charge of supporting PNPM programs, said the PNPM Peduli program would begin next year. An initial $3 million would be allocated for a pilot to run from January 2011 to June 2012.

"PNPM Peduli will work at the local level through local civil society organizations and community groups, which will receive the grants," she said. "These organizations will be responsible for identifying beneficiaries and reaching out to the vulnerable groups, including the transgender groups. At the moment, we're still in the process of selecting the organizations."

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