Portrait of an activist: Camari Serau

 

I want people of diverse sexual orientations accepted and supported in their own families and communities, and to be free from threats, harassment, and violence.

Camari Serau is a young gender non-conforming Fijian advocating for the rights of women and the LGBTI community, and supports pro-independence activists from Papua and West Papua province, Indonesia. She calls for an end to the exploitation of Papuan’s sacred land, and for the fair distribution of local resources. She wants Papuans to live free of oppression, and to be allowed to govern their resources according to local development frameworks.

Camari is working to mobilize people to end discrimination against women and members of the LGBTI community. She encourages parents, guardians, and educators to teach boys and young men to be respectful toward women, girls, and ensure they do not discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Camari wants young women and girls to feel comfortable to speak about their body, identity, health, sexuality and rights.

She told Amnesty International, “I want to see the Fijian government support the rights of people of diverse sexual orientations, and enforce stricter laws and penalties against any form of harassment or discrimination against women and the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Camari uses social media, art, and a variety of informal spaces to raise the human rights issues that concern her most.

Her work has not gone without challenge. Camari has been subjected to questioning and surveillance by the local authorities. Last year in July, upon returning from Solomon Islands she was taken in for questioning by the Fiji Border Control Police. She was asked questions relating to pro-independence advocacy for Papua and West Papua province. Local police have also stopped Camari and other activists from wearing Papuan activism t-shirts or carrying out any form of protest at public events.

Camari had her social media accounts monitored, hacked, and reported many times by unidentified people. She is now looking for platforms where strong and innovative forms of advocacy are encouraged, reflecting her desire to speak out even louder and to insist on being heard.

Camari has had strangers tell her to her face that she will go to hell because of her gender identity, and has seen her images posted on public social media forums to be ridiculed and mocked.

Despite these attacks, Camari knows that her work is crucial in raising public awareness about communities that need solidarity and support. Camari says her advocacy creates space for people who are trapped in systems of oppression to mobilize and fight against their oppressors. Camari is convinced that no matter what the challenges are, the protection and promotion of human rights is worth it.

“I want to see more young women and girls encouraged to be vocal, brave and independent.”

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[Amnesty International takes no position on the political status of any province of Indonesia, including calls for independence. However, we consider that the right to freedom of expression protects the right to peacefully advocate for independence or any other political solutions that do not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.]