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Trans women are trying to flee Aceh after police raids and vigilante attacks

'The situation in Aceh is foreboding': trans women are looking to escape as police and vigilantes target them

Trans women are trying to flee Aceh after police raids and vigilante attacks
The horrifying images of trans women in Aceh being rounded up and forced into men's clothes. | Photo: YouTube

Trans women in Indonesia’s Aceh province are trying to flee after police detained a group of women and forcibly cut their hair.

Locally known as Waria, 12 trans women were rounded up by local police and civilian vigilantes at the weekend. They were forced to wear men’s clothes and their hair was cut against their will.

Police Untung said the women will remain in detention so they can be coached ‘until they really become men’.

The five salons have either been shut down, received police warnings or been the target of attacks from the public.

Aceh is the only province that is allowed to practice strict Islamic Sharia Law. LGBTI people have been increasing targets of police and vigilantes there in the past 12 months.

Blurred faces of two trans women sitting on the ground topless as a man cuts their hair

Two trans women are forced to have their hair cut by police in Aceh. | Photo: YouTube

But after the weekend’s mass arrests, many trans women are now hoping to flee Aceh.

‘As I am writing you this now, tens of Waria are being detained and had to face major harassment by police and mob in Northern Aceh,’ an Aceh local said. The local’s name has been kept confidential for security reasons.

‘Their main livelihood, which is hair salon, is being shut down by force. Their hair was cut short, they were instructed to roll on the ground, verbal abuse and so on.

‘Due to this situation, right now a group of Waria friends is evacuating to a neighboring province.’

The women are leaving Aceh with little preparation and no viable source of income.

Aceh: a hostile place for LGBTI

Human rights groups condemned the actions of police in Aceh.

‘The raids on beauty salons are just the latest example of the authorities arbitrarily targeting transgender people simply for who they are,’ said Amnesty Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid.

‘Despite them having committed no crime, Aceh has become an increasingly hostile place for LGBTI people.

‘Cutting the hair of those arrested to ‘make them masculine’ and forcing them to dress like men are forms of public shaming and amount to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, in contravention of Indonesia’s international obligations.

‘This is part of a long-standing pattern of harassing and discriminating against LGBTI people in the region that must stop immediately.

‘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.’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Aceh’s anti-LGBT policies have generated harsh criticism from the international community.

In December last year 12 trans women were followed and detained by ‘militant Islamist vigilantes’.

Last year’s arrest and lashings of two men in the early twenties was Indonesia’s first public caning for homosexuality.

‘This is just the latest incident in which Indonesian police have openly collaborated with Islamists to unlawfully target LGBT-related spaces and people,’ HRW said.

‘These raids have targeted everything from lesbian-owned houses to private gay clubs. Last year, more than 300 LGBT people were apprehended in police raids across Indonesia.’

‘The situation in Aceh is foreboding.

‘Indonesia’s National Police Commission should start an investigation into the incident, including the role of Sangaji.’

Helping the Warias

Indonesia’s Waria face many barriers because they violate cultural rules about gender.

Waria struggle to get work, stay in school, or open a bank account because the gender listed on their identification cards does not match their gender presentation.

Anyone interested in donating money to help trans women leave Aceh should email this journalist for information: [email protected]


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