Police in the Indonesian province of Aceh arrested 12 transgender women on saturday, forcing them to strip off their shirts and then shaving their heads in public.
The arrests were in a raid on five hair salons owned by transgender women, who are referred to locally as “waria.”
A crowd gathered to watch and videotape the women as their long hair was shorn and they were forced to don male attire. The women were also commanded to speak in “masculine” voices by authorities.
North Aceh Police Chief Untung Sangaji told the crowd, “Our [Muslim scholars] disagree with this disease… [It] is spreading,” adding that police would take action against anyone who visited such salons, as well: “It’s inhumane… to tolerate this sissy garbage.”
Sangaji told Indonesian-language site Kompas.com that the women’s parents had gone to him to “save” their children. “These mothers came to crying to me,” he insisted, “they said their sons were given free treatment at the salon, and were seduced by the transgender [women].”
According to authorities, the women will be forced to undergo further “training” in gender conformity before they’re returned to their families.
Human rights activists have decried the action as “humiliating and inhumane.”
“It is also unlawful and a clear breach of their human rights,” Amnesty International’s Usman Hamid told The Guardian. “Such incidents must be promptly and effectively investigated.”
Although transgender identity and homosexuality are not technically illegal in most of Indonesia, Aceh has been governed by sharia law since 2001, with stiff penalties for any deviation of gender and sexual norms. In May 2017, two gay men were flogged in public there, garnering international outrage.
Additionally, discrimination and persecution has been on the rise throughout the country: In October, more than 50 gay men were arrested in a raid on a bathhouse in Jakarta.