Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: Empowering Diversity and Youth Participation in Indonesia

A group of five people are sitting on the floor, collaborating and drawing on a large sheet of paper spread in the center. They are surrounded by a carpet with a circular pattern.
Last updated on: 23 May 2024

by Inti Muda and YIFoS, partners in the Indonesia Healthy Cities with PRIDE program

The impact of barriers experienced by young people with diverse gender and sexuality backgrounds in Indonesia emerges in the context of issues of human rights fulfillment and meaningful engagement in health and legal services. Discriminatory regulations and inhospitable services for young people of diverse genders and sexualities place them in a more vulnerable position to higher HIV infection rates, and criminalisation.

A person is speaking in front of a group seated around two rectangular tables in a conference room. The tables hold laptops, documents, and personal items. A projector and whiteboard are visible.

Indonesia Healthy Cities with Pride National Meeting, 2023

Let’s look at Persatuan Transpuan Sumatera Utara (PETRASU), a youth-led organisation in Medan, North Sumatra. As an organisation that works on issues facing transgender people in North Sumatra province, PETRASU faced obstacles in fulfilling the needs of their community due to limited support and resources. This is further worsened by statements made in the past by the Mayor of the city that targeted the LGBTQI+ community, thus leading to an increase and emergence of threats and stigma as well as discrimination against the community. Aiming to strengthen their community itself and to empower others, organisational strengthening and access to productive networking are needed by organisations such as PETRASU in maintaining  young  people’s participation.

The Indonesia Healthy Cities with PRIDE (IHCP) program is an initiative organized to address the barriers faced by young people with diverse gender and sexuality backgrounds in Indonesia, particularly in relation to access to HIV health services and human rights. Starting in 2023, with support from Aidsfonds, the program operates in four areas in Indonesia: Medan, Bali, Bandung, and Samarinda, in response to human rights issues amongst and limited engagement in healthcare service delivery of young people living with HIV and young people of diverse gender and sexuality backgrounds. Key challenges identified by this initiative include limited access to appropriate services, stigma and discrimination, and lack of attention to HIV prevention and care for young people.

A group of six people is seated on the floor, collaborating on a project with colored paper, markers, and a phone. One person is writing notes while others contribute ideas.

National Consortium Meeting IHCP, 2024

IHCP is also based on a 100% community-led decision-making framework, which provides space for active participation and decision-making by young people themselves. IHCP is led by 2 national level organisations: Youth Interfaith Forum on Sexuality (YIFoS) Indonesia and Inti Muda Indonesia. YIFoS and Inti Muda serve as grant makers and provide technical assistance related to the program, while the overall implementation of the program is carried out by local partners in each city.

In addition to applying the Youth-Led framework, the intersectionality approach is also a strong focus for IHCP in strengthening the empowerment and collaboration of young people from diverse socio-cultural and geographic backgrounds. For that reason, IHCP also engages individuals or groups from within the young key population communities, women’s movements, and the broader Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) movement. Our  collaborations with young key populations aim to accelerate their empowerment. Beside that, through engagement with the women’s movement, IHCP has been able to connect the SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression, and Sex Characteristics) diverse community and young key populations to broader pro-democracy networks. This not only strengthens individuals involved within the young key population networks, but also encourages youth organisations that focus on SRHR to reach out to peers who are young key populations and are more closeted. In addition, IHCP also seeks to strengthen the most vulnerable groups within these movements, such as trans people, and work with health services to ensure better access for young key populations, and more youth-friendly services.

This approach is implemented by the IHCP program partnership in collaboration with Inti Muda Jawa Barat, Inti Muda Kalimantan Timur, PETRASU, Komunitas Perempuan Hari Ini, Inti Muda Bali, KISARA PKBI Bali & Bali Medika Clinic. With a diversity of partners involved, this cross-sectoral collaboration strengthens the efforts in improving the welfare and empowerment of young key populations across the country.

A brief review from Inti Muda Jawa Barat

One of the implementers of IHCP, Inti Muda Jawa Barat, has provided a positive review of the initiative’s impact on their operations and outcomes. IHCP has empowered them as implementers by entrusting them with the freedom to innovate and strategize based on their perspectives, and their unique local context in West Java. This trust has cultivated a sense of empowerment among the youth involved, which they consider crucial for meaningful participation.

The organisation highlights that the program has provided them with the opportunity to initiate gradual changes, starting from internal strengthening to the formulation of frameworks for achieving significant goals, as well as the implementation of necessary intervention steps within their communities. They emphasize that these changes are rooted in the needs and realities experienced by young people themselves, which they believe will lead to more effective and sustainable program outcomes in the long run.

Since the project’s inception, IHCP’s impact on Inti Muda Jawa Barat has been substantial. Internally, both administrators and members have seen the impact of capacity building in terms of an increase in knowledge and skills. Tangible outcomes include the establishment of an advocacy group that has addressed over 40 cases of inequality, the establishment of a peer support group for young people living with HIV (PLHIV), which has enhanced access to antiretroviral medications (ARVs) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), as well as the completion of a study on HIV testing for clients under 18 years old, which has been recognized at the AIDS International Conference 2024. These achievements serve as evidence of IHCP’s positive impact on enhancing the role and effectiveness of Inti Muda Jawa Barat in addressing the needs of young people.

In its first year of implementation (2023), the IHCP successfully implemented a series of activities that positively impacted young PLHIV and young people of diverse gender and sexuality backgrounds. However, along the way, the program also encountered a number of barriers that required response and adaptation.

One significant barrier is a discriminatory article in Indonesia’s new Criminal Code (KUHP) that affects access to health services and reproductive rights for diverse young people. Indonesian Law no. 1 of 2023 in Article 408 of the Criminal Code has the potential to create more space for criminalisation of HIV prevention efforts and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education for adolescents. The criminalisation of this practice affects young people and community workers, especially field workers and human rights defenders who work in the socialization of sexual and reproductive health. Condoms as a means of preventing pregnancy, which is also a means of preventing the transmission of HIV and STIs, can potentially be criminalized when used by the community as a tool in educating adolescents (under 18 years old). This hinders sex education, reinforces stigma related to sexuality, and obstructs young people from being able to make accurate health decisions, thus negatively affecting their physical and mental well-being.

A group of five people are sitting on the floor, collaborating and drawing on a large sheet of paper spread in the center. They are surrounded by a carpet with a circular pattern.

Training for SOGIESC Youth-Friendly Healthcare Service Providers in Medan, 2023

Responses to these barriers include various strategies, ranging from social media campaigns to raise awareness about issues faced by diverse young people, to advocacy to stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, to push for policies that are more inclusive, and more friendly to gender and sexuality diversity. In addition, capacity building of implementers related to SOGIESC issues, Harm Reduction, and program Monitoring & Evaluation techniques are important focuses in overcoming these barriers.

Through these efforts, it is hoped that the Indonesia Healthy Cities with PRIDE program continues to have a significant impact in improving access to health services for young people of diverse genders and sexualities, and young people living with HIV in Indonesia, and championing their rights more broadly in society.