A university in the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi has reportedly apologized after a new student accused a faculty member of discriminating against them because of their gender — in public.
The incident reportedly occurred during a campus orientation for new law students at Hasanuddin University, better known as Unhas, on Friday. The student in question, Muhammad Nabil Arif Adhitya, was allegedly called out by Law Faculty Deputy Dean Hasrul for “unconventional mannerisms.”
It is understood that male and female students were seated separately during the program. Muhammad, who identifies as non-binary, allegedly sat between the groups.
As a result, Hasral allegedly forced Muhammad to identify their gender in front of all other attendees. A cellphone video shows Muhammad explaining themself on the stage.
“I was [sitting] in the middle because I am gender-neutral,” Muhammad told Hasrul, according to Coconuts Jakarta. “That’s how I identify myself.”
Visibly outraged, Hasrul ordered Muhammad to leave the event. The student was reportedly taken to a lecturer’s room, where they had to identify themself as a male.
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The video quickly went viral on social media, drawing mixed reactions from the Muslim-majority public. While many expressed support for Hasrul’s actions, some criticized the blatant act of discrimination.
The outrage was significant enough that University Rector Jamaluddin Jompa met reporters on Saturday to address the incident.
Jamaluddin insisted that Unhas is “inclusive” and “open for all,” but acknowledged that it is also “prone to making mistakes, for which we will rectify and apologize for, if necessary.”
Meanwhile, Law Faculty Dean Hamzah Halim guaranteed Muhammad that they will not be discriminated against ever again.
“All [students] have the same opportunity and the same space to achieve [their] dreams here,” Hamzah said, as per Detik.com.
Interestingly, Unhas is located in the city of Makassar, which is home to the ethnic Bugis people. The group recognizes five genders: oroané, comparable to cisgender men; makkunrai, comparable to cisgender women; calalai, comparable to transgender men; calabai, comparable to transgender women; and bissu, interpreted as neither male nor female and are typically born as intersex.
The bissu are also revered as spiritual beings.
“It is said that on their descent from heaven, bissu did not split and become male or female, like most people, but remained a sacred unity of both,” Sharyn Graham Davies, an anthropologist at Monash University in Australia, told the BBC. “Whether opinions are pro or con with the freshman or the campus, questions like this should not be asked in public, because this is a personal matter,” one Twitter user wrote. “Ironic that this occurs in a location whose ancestors recognized five genders.”