Human rights activists condemned the arrest of 12 transgender people in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province after police raided five salons during what they called an operation to combat immorality.
Witnesses said police officers cut off the hair of the arrestees and took them to a police station in North Aceh regency, where they ordered them to roll around on the ground, run and chant loudly.
“The police should release them because they do not violate the Qanun Jinayat,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told BenarNews on Monday.
“Those people did not have sex. They’re in the salon, working, talking,” Andreas said.
Islamic Sharia law is in force in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province. The Qanun Jinayat, Aceh’s sharia criminal code, allows for up to 100 strokes or 1,000 grams of gold or 100 months in jail for gay sex or sodomy.
Arrested in raids late Saturday and early Sunday, the detainees, known as waria in Indonesian, were being held at the local police station on Monday to “be coached back as real men,” an official said.
“The longest is five days to give them a physical coach to make them become men again. Coaching on morality and religiousness are conducted by ulamas (Muslim scholars),” North Aceh Regency Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata told BenarNews.
Untung said the arrests were not punishment for working in the salons.
“Why as men do they act like that? None of our offspring are transgender,” he said. “School children are disturbed. In the future they can be influenced.”
Hartoyo, a Jakarta-based LGBT activist from Aceh, denounced the raids on Facebook.
“You guys are barbaric. You claimed to implement Islamic Sharia, but your behavior is like Satan. If they are wrong, what right do you have to judge them without legal process,” he wrote. “Is this what you are?”
‘Some of them were crying’
Untung said he expected such a response from LGBT activists.
“We are fine, but many are worried that someone in their family will become transgender,” he said explaining why police conducted what he called a “morality operation.” “We do this to prevent the increasing number on transgenders here.”
“We received reports from mothers that their sons were teased by transgender women,” he said, adding, “I already asked for permission from ulemas, then I did the raids.”
Untung said some of those arrested are drug users and in some cases police found downloads of sex acts on their mobile phones.
The police chief said the Aceh community supported officers’ efforts, adding that some people tried to join police in the raids.
“There are people who came who wanted to attack. I said you are not allowed,” Untung said. “They are members of our society, too. Let them have the coaching by police.”
Bystanders recorded the scene of the detainees at the police station and posted it to social media.
“Police told them to take off their clothes,” said a witness who did not want to reveal his name, adding officers then told them to wear men’s clothes.
“Some of them were crying when they were taken by security forces to the police station,” he added.
Untung told the state news agency Antara that the detainees were told to chant loudly until their male voices came out. He also justified the haircuts.
“They’re like men again, macho,” Untung said. “We are surprised the government did not do this a long time ago.”