INDONESIA’S national police chief has ordered an investigation into raids last Sunday of hair salons where transgender women work in the province of Aceh, in an incident rights groups described as part of a “disturbing pattern” seeking to intimidate marginalised communities.
General Tito Karnavian said this week that he had ordered his local counterpart to investigate the raid by Aceh’s religious police on five salons, arresting 12 transgender women and subjecting them to public humilitation.
The workers had their hair forcibly cut and were stripped down by police officers and vigilante bystanders.“The transvestites will receive coaching until they become real men,” said Aceh’s police chief Ahmad Untung Surianata, who led the raids, as quoted by state new agency Antara.
Salons are one of the few avenues of employment open to transgender Indonesians who are commonly known as waria.
The women were detained for 72 hours and were told by police officers to shout until “their male voices came out”, said Ahmad, who has since said he regretted people being “offended” by the raid.
“Karnavian’s rebuke of the Aceh raid is a good start, but police need to stop these raids altogether to restore public confidence,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement.
“The raids form a disturbing pattern that strike fear into already-marginalised communities. Police invading private spaces – be it hotel rooms, homes, clubs, or beauty parlors – to harass an unpopular minority represents a threat to all Indonesians,” it said.
“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,” Amnesty International’s Usman Hamid said this week.
Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said: “this is just the latest incident in which Indonesian police have openly collaborated with Islamists to unlawfully target LGBT-related spaces and people.”
A report from Front Line Defenders last year showed that violence and death threats against LGBT rights campaigners from hardline Islamic groups were on the rise.
SEE ALSO: Why are LGBT Indonesians under siege?
Homosexuality is outlawed in Aceh under a 2014 Shariah-based law – the only part of Indonesia to currently criminalise gay sex. Two men became the first people to be given corporal punishment for same-sex relations last May.
Hundreds of others have been caned for other ‘morality offences’ such as selling alcohol, gambling or extra-marital relations.
The Acehnese waria reportedly had pornography on their phones – a criminal offence under Indonesia’s national pornography laws. In the absence of anti-homosexuality laws, LGBT Indonesians have increasingly been targeted under the loosely defined pornography legislation.