Twelve transgender women were arrested by Indonesian police on Sunday in a raid of beauty salons in the conservative Aceh region.
The detainees were arrested after a group of mothers complained that the women had been “teasing” their sons, as the Agence Presse France initially reported. Locals attempted to attack the women as they were taken away in handcuffs and were shielded from the assaults by authorities.
After they were hauled off to the local police station, law enforcement officials cut off their hair and forced them to wear male clothing.
The dozen arrestees will continue to be held for three to five days, where they will undergo conversion therapy. In addition to “morals teaching,” North Aceh Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata claimed the women would be given “counseling and coaching” on how to behave like men. Part of the program, which is being called “Operation Anti Moral Illness,” includes chanting “until their male voices [come] out.”
“We want to change their mentality so they can be better people,” Surianata told press.
The local police chief added that the raids were intended to curb the growth of Aceh’s transgender community, which is known locally as the “waria” (a mixture of the words for “woman” and “male”), and claimed the training is going well.
“Their numbers are growing hereI don’t want that,” Surianata said.
Although homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, the semi-independent province of Aceh is permitted to govern under Sharia law, which imposes the death penalty for same-sex behavior. Last year two gay men in the district were publicly flogged 85 times as onlookers screamed to beat them harder.
Even in districts where being LGBTQ is permissible under law, police continue to target local queer and transgender residents.
Twelve women in Tugu Jaya were forced out of their home last September after being accused of “immoral activities” by law enforcement, which included having short hair and behaving “as men.” Just a month later, Jakarta police rounded up at least 58 people in a sting operation on a gay bathhouse, alleged to be engaging in prostitution.
Human rights advocates have called the ongoing arrests “unlawful” and “inhumane.”
“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,” Amnesty International Indonesia Director Usman Hamid told The Guardian. “Such incidents must be promptly and effectively investigated.”
“It’s very strange that officers would arrest innocent people and cut off their hair,” added Hartoyo, a local LGBTQ rights activist. “It’s barbaric.”
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