Indonesian Capital Rounds Up Trans People for ‘Rehabilitation’

Disturbing reports allege that officials in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, are rounding up trans women and putting them in so-called “rehabilitation” units.

The Jakarta Social Agency has reportedly admitted to carrying out regular raids to put trans women in facilities where they will be held until they and their families meet criteria suitable for their release. One of those criteria demands that the transgender individuals, or “waria, sign a declaration that they will no longer continue living as trans.

The Jakarta Post reports:

The agency’s head of rehabilitation affairs, Chaidir, told The Jakarta Post that the agency regularly conducted raids against transgender women. “Soon after we have a waria admitted to a social house, we will notify her family or her community to organize her release,” he said.

[...]

If she came from outside Jakarta, the agency would notify the social agency of the province where she was registered, he said. The move was intended, Chaidir explained, “to create a deterrent effect, so that [the province] will know that one of their residents has become Jakarta’s social problem”.

Additional reports disturbingly state that officials do not always release people — in this case, trans youth — back to their families.

Head of West Jakarta’s Duri Kosambi subdistrict, Irwansyah Alam, told the press that he “refused to sign and tore up an official document after one of his residents, Tarnisem, last week requested to take her transgender daughter Ahmad Sehu, also known as Neneng, out of city-owned social house Bina Insan Bangun Daya 1.”

The mother eventually obtained the necessary paperwork to have her trans daughter released, but the harm here is clear: Not only are officials rounding up trans people and detaining them for no reason other than their identity, but some are also abusing an already discriminatory system to prevent their release. As the mother mentioned in the above story points out, her daughter is the only one in their household who is earning income, so this detention hits them on multiple fronts.

Officials have reportedly said that repeated violations of religious laws in this way — namely, being openly trans — could result in jail time. It’s worth mentioning that there currently is no specific law against trans identity or gender affirmation in Indonesia, but religious authorities appear to be ramping up their anti-LGBT policing under the country’s inflated anti-pornography laws and other morality codes.

Is this incident representative of Indonesia as a whole?

At the moment it appears that this particular “rehabilitation” drive is peculiar to Jakarta. However, we have evidence  from reputable agencies like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to substantiate claims that Indonesia has increased its anti-LGBT persecution. In fact, a number of reports state that anti-LGBT raids have increased in several areas across Indonesia over the past few months.

In the past, trans women have been taken into custody and have had their heads shaved in a supposed attempt to strip them of their gender identity and humiliate them. Legal maneuvers in Indonesia have also attempted to create new penalties against gay people and those transgressing so-called religious values.

This violence, extrajudicial detention and anti-LGBT animus has become so concerning that Human Rights Watch issued a statement toward the end of February, warning that Indonesia’s anti-LGBT crackdown should concern the rest of Asia and, indeed, the rest of the world.

The article reads in part:

Things may get even worse: One legislator has called for the death penalty for gays and lesbians. Others have cynically attempted to portray criminalization as a means of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from vigilante violence.

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The roots of Indonesia’s rising intolerance lie in the failure of successive governments to effectively respond to harassment, threats and violence by militant Islamists against religious, ethnic and sexual minorities – a trend that should concern all of Asia.

The HRW report goes on to detail the vigilantism that has sprung up throughout Indonesia, as religious officials who have adopted conservative Islam attempt to hunt down — and supposedly bring to reckoning — those who fall outside of certain dogmatic beliefs.

To be absolutely clear, the problem here is not Islam as a religion. Until relatively recently, LGBT people lived alongside their peers and often shared their religious sensibilities. However, as Human Rights Watch points out, rising conservatism that distorts Islamist ideology has shattered this peace — and the effects put many minorities at risk, including religious minorities like Christians.

What can be done to help Indonesia’s LGBT Community?

International pressure is crucial to protect transgender Indonesians.

World governments must immediately speak out against this malignant crackdown and help persuade Indonesian President Joko Widodo to roadblock further attempts at criminalization. While this damaging turn of events cannot be remedied in one go, Widodo does have the power to stop these actions from escalating. LGBT lives may depend on it.

Take Action!

Nearly 74,000 people have signed a Care2 petition calling on President Widodo to take action and help Indonesia’s LGBT community. Will you add your voice?

Photo Credit: Global Panorama/Flickr

59 comments

Marie W
Marie W18 days ago

Thank you very much.

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming5 months ago

NOTED

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DAVID f
Dave fleming5 months ago

NOTED

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Jack Y
Jack Y5 months ago

Thank You

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Jack Y
Jack Y5 months ago

Thank You

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juxi m
5 months ago

lgbt freedom to express

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Janis K
Janis K6 months ago

You signed on June 29, 2017

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Winn A
Winn Adams6 months ago

This country needs to come out of the dark ages NOW

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Winn A
Winn Adams6 months ago

Already signed

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Winn A
Winn Adams6 months ago

The petition is from last year.

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