Police in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province carried out a crackdown on a group of transgender women Sunday, forcibly shaving their heads and making them wear men’s clothing.
Police took 12 trans women into custody early Sunday and took them to a hair salon for the shaving and gave them the clothing as a means of “coaching” them to “become men,” North Aceh Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata told state media, according to CNN.
“In addition, the officers also nurtured them by way of having them run for some time and telling them to chant loudly until their male voices came out,” he said. The chief said the women were then taken to a police station for “further guidance” and that the action was intended to keep transgender people from “adversely affecting” younger Indonesians, CNN reports.
Surinata also said the women would be held for three days for more “counseling and coaching,” The Guardian reports. They were accused of violating the province’s religious law; Aceh is the only part of Indonesia that is under Muslim Sharia law. Provincial police have arrested many LGBT people over the past few years and subjected them to physical punishments such as caning. Now the country is considering a nationwide ban on sex outside marriage, which would include same-sex relations.
Human rights groups spoke out against this weekend’s arrests. “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 [in Sunday’s incident] would arrest innocent people and cut off their hair,” added Indonesian LGBT rights activist Hartoyo, who goes by one name, in an interview with The Guardian. “It’s barbaric.”
Another Indonesian human rights activist, Tunggal Pawestri, told CNN it was "crystal clear" that Sunday’s arrests violated the trans women’s rights. "I also feel worry for the mental and health condition of the transgender people who were arrested," she said.