Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia
In what appears to be an appalling miscarriage of justice, six men who set a transgender woman on fire in Indonesia will not be tried for murder.
On 6 April, the woman named Mira was burned to death in North Jakarta in an attack perpetrated by several people. She was accused of stealing a truck driver’s phone and wallet.
A mob of men assaulted the 43-year-old victim, poured petrol on her, lit a match and set her on fire. She died of her injuries in hospital the next day.
Six men have been identified in connection with the attack, with three arrested. Police, however, are not charging them with murder. The authorities believe the men did not intend to kill Mira, only threaten her, and “accidentally” dropped the match on her.
The suspects will instead be charged with physical violence, which carries a maximum sentence of 12 years.
Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid called on the authorities to press beyond their “lacklustre” investigation before deciding on “premature” charges.
“We still maintain that what the suspects did was carry out a despicable murder. The police should have conducted a more robust investigation, instead of taking the suspects at their word,” he told the Jakarta Post.
In a statement, Hamid commented that “It would not be the first time that LGBTI people in Indonesia have been violently targeted simply for who they are.”
In 2017, another transwoman named Zoya, 30, from Bekasi, West Java, was burned to death due to an accusation that she had stolen an amplifier from a local mosque.
“Without prompt action from the authorities to cast light on this horrifying crime and bring perpetrators to justice, transgender people in Indonesia will feel even further neglected and vilified by their government,” said Hamid. “The authorities must also take this appalling murder as a wake-up call and repeal its laws that criminalise specific gender identities,” he added.
Over the last few years, Indonesia has dramatically reversed its tolerance towards LGBT people, taking on a more radical Islamic approach to sexuality and gender identity.
LGBT people are routinely discriminated against, abused and arrested, often under the country’s anti-pornography laws. Morality police have raided private residences and businesses, while the government has moved to censor LGBT expression and representation in the media.
Human rights activists have launched a campaign to pay for the costs of Mira’s hospitalisation and to demand justice for the woman.
Tantowi Anwari, program manager for the Union of Journalists for Diversity (Sejuk) told the Jakarta Post: “This vicious act happened not because of an allegation that Mira stole a wallet and so on, but because of the strong stigma against transgender people that allows these terrible thugs to violently bully them.”