Re-igniting the Flame

Maria Mustika

Maria Mustika learned first-hand the isolation and trauma that comes from shame and stigma in families and communities. Her LBTI activism (lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex) is grounded in her personal experience of coming out as a lesbian. For more than ten years, she has been taking the lid off sex and sexuality in her community. First, as part of community outreach for Gaya Nusantara – one of the most vocal and visible gay rights organizations in Indonesia – Maria supported other young people kicked out of their homes and circles of friends because of their sexual orientation. Currently, Maria works with the Center for Marginalized and Community Studies (CMARS), which gives voice to religious minority groups by ensuring their participation in national dialogues and anti-discrimination campaigns. She is also an anti-violence spokesperson for the Indonesian Women's Coalition for Justice and Democracy (KPI) – the largest women’s membership civil society organization in Indonesia with more than 17,000 members in 32 provinces – which campaigns to increase women’s representation in local, regional and national-level decision-making. In all these ways, Maria plays an important role in incorporating LBT issues into the agenda of the wider women’s movement.

When she became involved with JASS SEA in 2010, Maria was at a low point, burned out and tired – a condition that many activists recognize. “It felt like the flame had almost died inside of me,” Maria says. Maria found JASS SEA to be a place of sisterhood which enabled her to re-gain the support, confidence and connections to take her organizing and activism to the next level. “Most of my friends are there, it’s our home,” she says. “And not only home, it’s also a family. We have all gained a new sense of feminism and women’s rights where all of us are part of the agenda. I learned that I am not alone – I have so many sisters and suddenly all of their problems become mine and mine becomes theirs. Recently one of our friends who is also a rights activist was jailed because our government was trying to silence her. It became all our fight and our voices together got her released.”

As in other countries and regions, the JASS process in Indonesia allows a growing number of women activists – especially young activists – to recharge and regroup, and to develop common agendas and strategies that link their issues into a single justice agenda. ”This is something I really needed,” says Maria, “something that had gone missing in me. Being a part of JASS, that flame was lit again and is burning even stronger.”

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