Transgender rights and health in Indonesia: A rapid ethnographic assessment



This project was part of the Australian Human Rights Institute’s 2023 seed funding round, receiving $9,000. 


Globally, transgender and gender-diverse communities face significant barriers to accessing timely and relevant healthcare. Transgender people commonly experience stigma and discrimination, generating inequality in access to healthcare (Winter et al, 2016). This is the case in Indonesia, where transgender communities face specific forms of social discrimination and structural barriers in access to health services in the fields of gender-affirming care, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health. As well as a significant worsening of LGBTQIA+ right more generally, a barrier to healthcare for Indonesian transgender communities is access to accurate national identity documents.  

This project is a Rapid Ethnographic Assessment (REA) of transgender access to healthcare in Indonesia. The project has two aims:

  1. Collect research data for human-rights based policy on transgender health in the Asia Pacific, and;
  2. Provide capacity building for community-based researchers from the transgender community via a participatory methodology. In addition to an aim of collecting research date via REA that will support better policy for human-rights based approaches to transgender health in Indonesia and other parts of the Asia Pacific, the research also aims to develop research capacity among Indonesian transgender communities.  

Based on participatory and peer-led models, this project investigates how embedding gender affirming principles in healthcare for the wider transgender community can improve access to healthcare services in the Indonesian context. Studies in Indonesia with transgender women have reaffirmed the central role of gender identity in shaping access to HIV testing and treatment (Januraga et al, 2018). At present, however, we do not know the healthcare needs as expressed by transgender communities, or the impact of exclusion from health services on transgender populations in Indonesia. Supporting recent calls for greater understanding of gender identity as a social determinant of health (Newman et al, 2021), the project will fill a gap in knowledge concerning how transgender health is understood and practiced at the community level in low- and middle-income contexts. The project builds on UNSW-based CI Hegarty and Newland’s long-term relationships with transgender communities in Indonesia, including on the topic of health equity and human rights.