Reacting to the Indonesian police’s arrest of 12 transgender people in North Aceh on 27 January, while forcefully cutting their hair to “make them masculine” and shutting down beauty salons where they work, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said:
“The latest raids on beauty salons are just the latest example of the authorities arbitrarily targeting transgender people simply for who they are. 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, inhuman 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 released all the transgender people on 28 January without any charges. The local police chief told media that they detained the transgender people for an “education” program in order to make them “normal” men.
“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,” said Usman Hamid.
“In Aceh, it is not only transgender people who face harassment, intimidation and attacks – all LGBTI people are at serious risk of such treatment. Such attacks must be stopped immediately and authorities must treat all people in Aceh equally before the law. Police are there to protect everyone, not to humiliate them and violate their rights.”
On 27 January, police in North Aceh arrested 12 transgender people and closed down five beauty salons where they work after local people complained about their activities. The police also cut their hair and forced them to wear men’s clothes during the raids.
This incident took place just weeks after local people and mass organizations raided a hotel and handed over six transgender people on 17 December 2017 to law enforcement agencies after they received information that a transgender beauty contest was taking place, an act they claimed violated Shari’a law in Aceh.
In another violation of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in May 2017, two men were caned 83 times each in public after being convicted by the Banda Aceh Shari’a Court of consensual same-sex sexual relations (liwath) under the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code. Although Shari’a bylaws have been in force in Aceh since the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001, and are enforced by Islamic courts, this was the first time that gay men had been caned under Shari’a law in the province.
LGBTI groups also face prosecution in other regions in Indonesia. On 25 May 2017, 141 men were arrested in North Jakarta by local police after attending what police described as a “gay sex party”. The next day the police released 126 men, but charged 10 of them with providing “pornography service” under Law No 44/2008 on Pornography.
With the exception of Aceh, consensual same-sex relations are not treated as crimes under the Indonesian Criminal Code. However, in addition to the already hostile environment for LGBTI people in Indonesia, a group of legislators in the House of Representatives have introduced a proposed amendment to the criminal code that would criminalize same-sex relations.