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Sexual minorities striving for equality in Indonesia

in INDONESIA, 20/08/2012

They get dolled up in makeup, skirts and headscarves every Sunday evening. But there is no mistaking the fact that the 20 or so people congregating were all born male. The weekly gatherings at a private residence in Yogyakarta, central Java, offer the select group an opportunity to express their sexual identity without fear of arousing religious intolerance in the world's largest Muslim nation.

Transgenders, along with lesbians, gays and bisexuals, battle prejudice on a daily basis in Indonesia.

The workshop on the teachings of the Koran is organized by Mariani, a 53-year-old hairdresser who is transgender, for men who live as women.

"Like all other people, we are human," said Mariani, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name. "We have the right to religion."

And therein lies a problem for a minority who wish to worship but may encounter hostility when visiting a mosque.

"Men and women pray separately, and we cannot fit in either place," Mariani said. "I pray with women, but some pray among men in the back row."

One of Mariani's friends was ridiculed as a "fag" by a child at a mosque. "I felt sad," Mariani said.

Read the full story here.

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