Police Arrest and Humiliate 12 Transgender Women in Aceh, Indonesia


31 January 2017

Media Contact:Rashima Kwatra, rkwatra@outrightinternational.org, +1(917) 859-7555

Police Arrest and Humiliate 12 Transgender Women in Aceh, Indonesia

Over the weekend, local and Shari’a religious police in the Aceh province of Indonesia, arrested 12 transgender women, all beauticians and salon owners, from their establishments. BBC reports, that the police further humiliated them by forcibly cutting off their hair, demanding that they wear men's clothing, and “counselling and coaching” them to “act like real men.” Other reports imply that neighbours or neighboring clerics reported the trans women to the police for disrupting moral order, negatively influencing youth, and violating local religious law.

Grace Poore, OutRight’s Program Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, comments on the arrests, saying,

The rights of the waria individuals were breached so profoundly by Aceh authorities, and they have been humiliated and treated callously. Neither national nor provincial legislation outlaw transgender identity, making these arrests completely arbitrary and unfounded. The authorities claim that they want to make the waria persons “more manly.” What does this mean, exactly? There are heterosexual men and cis-gender men who mistreat women in public and in private, tease women, cat-call, bully women. Are the Aceh authorities taking actions to stop this “manly” behavior? What kind of manliness are the authorities trying to force the waria to embody? The trauma that the authorities have subjected the waria people to is completely unjustified and a violation of human rights, a violation of Indonesia’s laws, and a violation of Indonesia’s commitments to international human rights standards. Release them without further exposure to dehumanizing treatment.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that has been granted autonomy to impose Shari’a-based religious laws, and in 2014 passed the Islamic Criminal Code. Under these bylaws, consensual same-sex activities are criminalized and punishable by 100 lashes. The Islamic Criminal Code also targets women, imposing a strict dress code, and anyone engaged in extramarital sexual activity. The Aceh province has been heavily cracking down on LGBTIQ people, forcing many into hiding or to flee from threat of persecution.

Poore continued with her statement, noting,

“These arrests will not only have a serious impact on the mental and physical well-being of these waria, but it could also devastate their livelihoods as their business premises were raided. The government has taken away their source of income, their ability to pay rent, buy food, get healthcare. What's the follow up here? What happens to them after the raids? Is it the policy of Indonesia to prevent Indonesians from being contributing members of the Indonesian society?”

OutRight Action International has documented a creeping criminalization of LGBTIQ people and behaviour in Indonesia, a country which was once considered a moderate Muslim country. These bylaws do not fall in line with national laws, contravene the Indonesian Constitution, and ignore the Pancasila—the five pillars that are the foundational principles of Indonesia. In the past year alone, hundreds of LGBTIQ people have been arrested and some charged with breaching a vague anti-pornography law, that is being used more frequently to criminalize LGBTIQ people. Nationally, consensual same-sex behaviour is not criminalized, though efforts are being exercised by Indonesia’s House of Representatives to amend a current Criminal Code bill that would expand sodomy laws to include consensual same-sex behaviour.