Right to Education of Muslim Transgender: A Case Study of Pesantren Waria Senin-Kamis, Indonesia 


Abstract: Education is a central human right and vital for the exercise of all other human rights (UNESCO, 2015). Islam calls upon all Muslims, irrespective of their gender identity, to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the word. Prophet Muhammad (pbh) said, “seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim” [Narrated by Ibn Majah], which clearly does not discriminate on the basis of gender.

Unfortunately, once the issue of the right to education of Muslim transgender comes – traditional Muslim Ulama (scholars) express strong opposition. On the other hand, the legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of transgender people are well established in international human rights law. Thus, excluding Muslim transgender from education is a serious gender based discriminatory act.

Although Southeast Asian Muslims are more tolerant and flexible in accepting the liberal interpretation of gender and sexuality (Feener and Sevea, 2009), gender reality is often being compromised due to the conservative position of the religious establishments. Such dichotomy allows very limited space for the implementation of right to education for the Muslim transgender.

In the midst of such scenario, this paper scopes the right to education of the transgender under Islamic jurisprudence, and assesses its practicality linking with existing human rights laws. In doing so Pesantren Waria Senin-Kamis, a case study of transgender school, has been made. Beside reviewing relevant literature the paper also embodies reflections from expert interviews. It explains that the school was built in 2008 in Indonesia, as a place for the transgendered people to study Islamic education, which ideally balances the religious and human rights obligation. It further explains that the pesantren promotes human rights-based approach in valuing its santri (students), as it grants the people, who considered as sinners in conservative Muslim society.


The paper also reveals that the functional approach and religo-philosophic legitimacy has been a major splitting factor among the Islamic scholars in Indonesia. It concludes with a call for greater dialogue among various stakeholders to tackle the radical elements who have been negatively capitalising the scholarly split for their political gain.

Keywords: Right to Education, Muslim Transgender, Human Rights Based Approach, and Gender Identity.



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