OutRight’s star-studded award ceremony held in the United Nations elegant delegates dining room , was attended by more than 350 activists, human rights defenders, diplomats and dignitaries. The evenings’ host, actor/activist Alan Cumming, shared the stage with presenter Carson Kressley and honourees Yuli Rustinwati, Arus Pelangi, OutSpoken award recipient United Nations Free and Equal Campaign, OHCHR, Special Recognition Awardees Randy Barry, US Special Envoy for the human rights of LGBTI people, and Dan Bross, Microsoft executive, and LGBT rights Advocate. Special guests included Indian Crown Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, Chair, Lakshya Trust, Omar Sharif Jr. of LOGO TV Global Allies, and Gabriella Pizzolo – “small Allison” from the Broadway hit Fun Home.
No star shown more brightly than Yuli Rustinwati, founder and Chairperson of Arus Pelangi, a federation of LGBTi organizations across Indonesia currently marking its 10th anniversary. Cummings, presenting the prestigious award to the Indonesian activist, drew a chilling picture of what Indonesian LGBTIQ individuals and human rights activists face:
“This has not been an easy year for the queer community in Indonesia. Over the past six months, government leaders have called for a ban on LGBTI students on university campuses… banned television and radio programs that depict LGBT people living “normal” lives, asked the United Nations Development Program to cut funding to LGBT-rights education groups, called for increase violence towards the LGBT community, and claimed that LGBTI people are actually more dangerous than a nuclear war.
As the clouds have darkened for our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, Arus Pelangi soldiers on, in spite of threats, violence, and censorship to continue advocacy and public awareness effort…. They take an active role in formal policy reform and lead the socialisation of LGBT issues to the general public through some of the most innovative campaigns seen across the world. They are not just advocates and campaigners; they are the counsellors, friends, and neighbours of the Indonesian LGBT community. Through their hotline services and group trainings, they have been a shoulder to cry on and life coach to tens of thousands of Indonesian LGBTQ people… Yuli Rastinawati is a founder and Chairperson of Arus Pelangi. On the tenth anniversary of this truly transformational organisation, OutRight Action International is proud to present the 2016 Felipa de Souza Award to Arus Pelangi.”
A stunned Yuli Rastinawati, accepted the award and standing ovation with a highly emotional response:
“Thank you, Alan, Jessica, and everyone at OutRight Action International. You just said Tenth Anniversary, and I still cannot believe it. Time flies, movements change, people change, and new challenges emerge. Your brief summary on the difficult year we have had in Indonesia serves as a huge reminder to me…. The trajectory of change is not necessarily an upward one. There are no straight lines or inevitabilities in the work that we do. Sometimes we regress. Sometimes things get worse, not better. Sometimes our enemies are the ones who get to celebrate.
But here we are, and I can tell you one thing: We’re not tired, we have not lost hope, and we are not giving up. Thank you to the LGBT Community in Indonesia …especially to the LGBTI human rights defenders who are always with us and who are always at the front lines. There is nothing more beautiful than looking out into this audience, this world and seeing nothing but support and generosity from our community abroad. Thank you.”
A message from UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon summed it up: “I thank OutRight Action International for its outstanding work around the world… I join you in honouring the brave men and women of Arus Pelangi – recipients of this year’s Felipa De Souza Award – who have faced down hateful rhetoric, threats and violence in Indonesia. Their example is an inspiration as we push for respect, recognition and human rights for LGBT, intersex and queer people everywhere.”
Randy Berry, US Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights said: “Our team is but a small fish in a pond of immensely courageous activists …. We could not be more proud to do everything we can to help them make the change we all need. Thank you Yuli, and thank you to every LGBTIQ activist across the globe. I hope to continue working with you.
Others remark on the bravery and challenges of Arus Pelangi: “Despite calls, even by government officials for expulsion from schools, executions, and public censorship of LGBTIQ voices, Arus Pelangi has stood up for the rights of Indonesians.” … Grace Poore, OutRight Action International, Asia Program coordinator.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director, OutRight Action International said: “As our strong partner in the worlds 4th most populous nation, Arus Pelangi serves as a national organisation leading the queer community to safety and security as they support human rights in the face of continual homophobia, transphobia and religious extremism.”