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A group of young men queue patiently for access to one of the ten computers in a popular internet cafe. They sit together on plastic benches, staring at mobile phones that beep constantly with a stream of incoming messages. Among the crowd waiting to use a computer is Valentino not his real name , 21 years old and born and raised in Sorong, West Papua.
Valentino is of mixed Papuan and Kei background. He left home two years ago to enrol as a student in economics at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura. Every Saturday night he spends time online, browsing the internet and checking emails, as well as joining in an Indonesian language gay chat room. He enjoys the chance to share feelings and experiences, but his main agenda is to find someone for sex. The main shopping mall, the taxi terminal and city parks are key sites for the scene. There, men looking for sex with other men mix with people selling, or in search of, other forms of casual sex, all divided according to their different groups.
They often congregate with people of their own ethnic background, but a form of networking exists between different MSM groups. Waria transgendered or transsexual males , for example, will sometimes make a contact on behalf of a man looking for a different type of MSM partner, or vice versa.
In the wider world of urban Papua, same sex behaviour is still heavily stigmatised and relationships between men are not recognised.
In fact, social and cultural taboos make it impossible to openly discuss sex outside marriage. Men are under strong pressure to marry and fulfil their roles as husbands and fathers, and any man known to have engaged in sex with another man is a source of shame for his family and community. As a result, married men in search of sex with other men are constantly on the move, seeking partners far removed from their own family, church and community environments.