“Indonesian Trans Women Have the Right to Vote”

Betty Epsilon Idroos, Commissioner of the General Election Commission (KPU). Photo by Abdus Somad.

Transgender groups are often marginalized in every general election. Not a few of them have lost their political rights. They encountered various obstacles to convey their right to vote. The obstacle started when they had difficulty obtaining citizenship documents.

In the population document, the gender division of a citizen only distinguishes between men and women. This division is often an obstacle for trans women groups. This is because their gender roles barely get recognition from the community, both socially and politically.

When interviewed last Tuesday, September 13, Commissioner of the General Elections Commission (KPU) Betty Epsilon Idroos said that the regulation of Law Number 7 of 2017 concerning General Elections does not actually discriminate against the gender of voters, as long as everything goes according to the provisions. “We can’t go out of the way that’s laid out in the rules,” said Betty.

This interview is part of a series of special coverage by Jaring.id and Koran Tempo on transgender women and politics in Indonesia. This coverage collaboration was carried out with the support of the Indonesian Association for Media Development (PPMN) with The Asia-Pacific Regional Support for Elections and Political Transitions (RESPECT). This collaborative program also involves the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Lafaek News (Timor Leste).

How does KPU do the mapping of voter participation among trans women?

Trans women or transgender are part of Indonesian citizens. As long as they are 17 years old or have been married, we will categorize them as voters. This is evidenced by an electronic ID card.

We have no problems in mapping them as voters as long as they have ID cards. This is because they must contain 12 elements that are available for us to categorize as voters during the process of matching and researching.

Next, in the process of segmenting the people who are targeted by voters, one segmentation is the marginal group. Trans women are part of the groups that need to be approached. The goal is that they become good voters. In addition, it is to ensure they receive information about when the voting day is, what kind of ballot is, as well as the correct voting mechanism, so that the ballot is useful. At least, it fulfills the one man, one vote, one value system.

It is also necessary to explain to them about the categorization, when they become permanent voters, transfer voters, or special voters. Based on my experience, they are still part of the segmentation to get disseminated information and education for voters.

There are complaints that they are still discriminated against, and that it is difficult for them to get an ID card. How can the KPU help them meet the requirements to become voters?

When the PPDP (voter data updating officer) or Pantarlih did the matching and research in the field, it was found that if the Indonesian citizens did not have an electronic ID card but had recorded it, the data could still be found. The findings in the field will be submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The goal is that the recording of these citizens can be carried out properly.

As far as we know, the Ministry of Home Affairs would do follow-up activities if they have data from institutions like us, both from the provincial KPU and the regency/city KPU. We can support the Ministry of Home Affairs to record the relevant data so that later they can come directly to the village or KPU office for assistance, because the recording process is very important. Because, as users of electronic ID cards, we need to synchronize this electronic ID card with our SIAK (Population Administration Information System) data.

If on voting day there are residents who just know that an ID card is a requirement to vote, while they don’t have an ID card or have never recorded data, can they still be facilitated to vote?

The KPU can work in accordance with statutory provisions. Our choice is that we have three voter data on the voting day. First, registered in the permanent voter list. Now the principle is de jure. We register them according to the address listed on the electronic ID card, so they are on our permanent voter list (DPT).

Second, they are in our DPT, but when voting wants to register for a transfer to vote, they have to take care of the A5 form (cover letter to vote elsewhere). The treatment is the same as the DPT. But if a new voter is caught on D-day and is not registered in the DPT, the evidence based on the Election Law is only to show their identity according to the address listed on the electronic ID card. We can’t get out of the corridor as stated in the rules. What can be done now is to encourage people who have not undergone the recording of their ID cards to come to the Directorate General of Civil Registration (Directorate General of Population and Civil Registration) to get themselves recorded in the system.

What are the obstacles for the KPU to embrace marginalized groups such as trans women?

This is our experience when we come to them. Their working hours are different. We once came on the weekends and gathered in one place. The obstacle is that they do not know whether they have been registered (as voters) or not. If they are registered, what are their rights and obligations as voters? They also want to know who to vote for.

This is actually the task of election participants to convince voters in election activities throughout the campaign period. By definition, the campaign is spreading the vision, mission and self-image so that people want to exercise their right to vote, including friends from among these trans women or transgender people.

Well, they do not know who will be chosen. All they know is maybe the presidential election. Even though there are elections for members of DPR, DPD, Provincial DPRD, Regency/Municipal DPRD—except for DKI because it did not hold elections for Regency/Municipal DPRD.

Another question that often arises is how to vote. We tell ballots to have value. I think there are no problems in the field. They are still served.

Trans women are worried that they will be made fun of by the people when they come to polling stations because they look different. How does the KPU ensure that TPS can be friendly to all people?

This is an input for us. So, we will coordinate about this. In one TPS, there are seven KPPS (voting groups) and two security officers. There are also witnesses from political parties and TPS supervisors. Throughout my nine years in DKI Jakarta, I have never found (trans women being treated badly at TPS). If there is, please let me know where it is. That will be our concern in serving voters because it is our duty to serve voters.

Is there a special program to facilitate trans women groups so that the polling stations are friendly to them?

Yes. We have a dissemination program per segmentation. For example for groups of women, youth, community leaders, religious leaders, or marginalized. The categorization is the target to make it easier to deliver. Because, for each segmentation, there is a different delivery method, what content is most appropriate, and when it can be done.

For example, young people prefer the afternoon after school. For trans women, it is done on weekends. Submission (dissemination of material) to them is also different. Because there are many of their terms that we are also not familiar with. We cannot use serious language, such as “exercise your right to vote.” The approach to them can not use standard language. This method has been carried out in two general elections and regional elections in DKI in the last two periods.

In fact, we never differentiate between them if they want to register as election organizers. As long as they are 17 years old and over, have never participated in a party in the last five years as evidenced by documents, and must pass a test. So, there is no problem if they want to participate as ad hoc organizers which will be opened. There is no obstacle to being a participant in the election. I’ve never heard (of transgender issues) this being such a big case.

To prevent discrimination, is there gender equality education conducted by the KPU to the officers at the polling stations?

Inclusive technical guidance (guidance) for this group is not specifically provided. We serve elections with the principle of equality. Those who are included in the DPT, can come to the voting station starting at 07.00. Persons with disabilities receive special treatment, such as for people who are blind, mentally retarded, deaf, and mute. But if you are transgender, you don’t need special assistance. The important thing is that no one is making fun of it. That’s standard.

The issue of SARA (ethnicity, religion, race, and intergroup) was also taken into account when we gave technical guidance to ad hoc officers. So far, that’s what we’ve done. But there is nothing specifically for transgender people because we view them the same as everyone else.

Some regions have local regulations that discriminate against transgender groups. This rule makes trans women afraid to express themselves, including to come to polling stations. How to overcome that obstacle? They already have an ID card, they want to vote, but are worried about being stigmatized.

In the election rules, there is no such limit. If there are other limitations, there is no effect. We will continue to serve them as voters. At TPS, they will be no different. We serve professionally, there is no gender difference. As long as you have an ID card and are registered as voters, you have the right to vote at 07.00-13.00.

Now it remains only to convince them. If they are not confident and afraid to leave, their homework is to convince them to come to the polling station happy and proud to participate. Because, in technical guidance, we never distinguish between people with that categorization. They are Indonesian citizens and have the right to vote.

In a number of areas, transgender women are often involved by political parties in campaigning. In fact, on the one hand, they do not have access to vote because they do not have ID cards. What is the Commission’s action?

The party campaigns to spread its self-image and vision and mission. If they do it in a creative way, we certainly can’t limit it. They can use community leaders, famous artists or groups, or even trans women. Go ahead. Our job is only to manage the campaign, what are the do’s and don’ts. So, it’s legal what they do.

Is there specific technical guidance on gender issues for ad hoc officers?

For city/district and provincial KPU, there are issues of women and gender. As for ad hoc, it’s more technical in the field. For example, voters who are not registered and they want to register. It is more about technical stuff like that.

If you don’t have an ID card but have a family card, can you register as a voter?

In Law Number 7 of 2017 it is stated that voters must be 17 years and over or have been married and have an electronic ID card. If you want to vote and we have the data, before the D-Day of voting or before setting the DPT, it can be used as the unique citizenship data for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

On the family card, there is a population identification number, is it still not possible?

They still have to show a physical ID card. For example, those who are only 17 years old but do not yet hold an ID card. If you want to vote, yes, you have to follow the data recording (to make an ID card).

We have data that in 21 cities there are 7,000 trans women, but only 675 have ID cards. How are the KPU’s efforts to speed up data collection?

That is the domain of Mr. Zudan (Zudan Arif Fakrulloh, Director General of Population and Civil Registration of the Ministry of Home Affairs) to explain. But if we get the data, we will surely give it to the Ministry of Home Affairs. For example, when we checked DP4 (the list of potential voters for the general election), we found data on voters who had died. It is also a return data submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs to be categorized as a person who has died. Because, not everyone takes care of a death certificate.

In the previous election, there was a case where a voter came to the polling station but could not vote. The officer questioned the difference between the name on the DPT and the name on the ID card. Can he still vote?

It means that he is not actually registered in the DPT. Here’s how it works. We got the DP4 form which we matched and researched into DPS. From DPS to DPSHP (temporary voter list result of improvement).

In DP4, we received NIK data and 12 other elements. If he has a disability, there is information about it. So, if the name on the e-KTP does not match the DPT, he is not actually registered at the TPS. We already have tools in our NIK. Please check. If he wants to choose only with his ID card, he must also check first. Is he really not registered? If the crosscheck is not registered, it could be special voter data and they can vote at 12.00-13.00. The condition is that you can only vote at the domicile listed on the ID card.

There are cases where voters do not have ID cards, but get an invitation to vote and vote. How is that?

So, the C6 letter or the invitation is just to remind you that you can only vote at the designated TPS. If it is found that there is someone who does not have an ID card but received an invitation, it is a criminal act. This is possible because KPPS is a local resident.

It should be remembered that at the voting there are supervisors and witnesses. If there is such a finding, it leads to a criminal act because it is considered to be using other people’s voting rights.



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