Indonesia is frequently touted as the world’s largest democracy, but the human rights of transgender people are seriously compromised under the nation’s religious laws.
In recent weeks, transgender women alongside gay and lesbian people have been fleeing from the Sharia-law ruled province of Aceh to escape a spade of arrests, detainments, and torture from the state.
Twelve transgender women, called waria, were recently arrested during raids of beauty salons by police and accompanying mobs of local vigilantes.
The trans women were humiliated publicly by having their shirts torn off, their hair cut short, and taunted to act like men.
In detainment, the TS women underwent masculinizing re-education. It was reported that the “counselling and coaching” was “going well and now they are all acting like real men.” Purportedly, “training” included being forced to walk in a manly way and voice coaching to sound less female. The waria were forced into wearing men’s clothing and underwent enforced strenuous physical exercise like push-ups in an effort to turn them macho.
Family and friends of the arrested women report that the prisoners were also stripped naked and beaten.
Amnesty International’s Indonesia director, Usman Hamid, told The Guardian: “The police’s so-called ‘re-education’ of transgender people is not only humiliating and inhumane, it is also unlawful and a clear breach of their human rights. Such incidents must be promptly and effectively investigated.”
Locals had accused transgender women of trying to seduce their sons, prompting the swarming of beauty salons where waria are known to work. Over forty other salons and waria workplaces have shut down in fear of more raids, as fifty religious groups circulate memos on social media calling for “eradication of LGBT.”
Over 90% of Indonesians are against LGBT because it is not permitted in Islam and report feeling “threatened” by gay and trans minorities. There were over 300 arrests in the province of Aceh of gay and trans persons in private hotels and clubs last year according to Human Rights Watch, and parliament is drafting criminal code revisions to outlaw not only LGBT relations but all extramarital sex. Currently, under Sharia law, “gay” sex is punishable by 100 lashes.