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In the face of the horrific treatment of trans people in Aceh, Indonesia, we must stand up and act.

All over the world, the rights of trans people - to be free from torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, the right to freedom of expression, a private life, and protection from discrimination - are disregarded and discarded.

Trans people experience levels of discrimination, abuse and violence that are, quite frankly, shocking. Every single human being, regardless of their gender identity, should have their fundamental rights protected and respected. This is made clear in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” There is no excuse for anything less. However, in the Indonesian province of Aceh, this is being ignored, and in brutal fashion.

A truly shocking disregard for human rights 

“Our ulama [Muslim scholars] disagree with this disease. [This disease] is spreading. It’s inhumane if Untung Sangaji is to tolerate this sissy garbage.” These words were uttered by Untung Sangaji, Police Chief in North Aceh. They followed a series of raids carried out by police and Sharia police on 27 January on five hair salons, a common work place for trans women in Aceh Province.  

Following the raids, 12 trans women were ordered to squat-walk in a humiliating fashion to a nearby park, where they were made to roll on the floor as part of mock military training, apparently to make them "manlier". Police then forced them to take off their clothes, leaving them only wearing trousers. One of the police officers then proceeded to forcibly cut the hair of six of the women to make them look "masculine".

The humiliation and abuse didn’t stop there. The 12 women were then ordered to shout "like a man" and one was slapped, once around the face with a sandal and then later on her ears and mouth, cracking her lips.

Before being released without charge on the afternoon of the 28 January, following a night spent in cells, where the women were forced to sleep on the cold floor without mattresses in their wet shorts, a Muslim cleric was asked by police to give a sermon for the victims. The cleric told them that because of “the nature of a transgender person”, it is fine “to kill transgender or other LGBTI people” and that “they are more evil than a kafir (infidel)”. The police also made all 12 women sign a document, which they were not allowed to read, that was later confirmed as an agreement not to act like “women” and not to complain about any police misconduct. 

Although released without charge, the individuals have been left deeply traumatised. Some have lost their jobs. Others have continued to face physical and verbal abuse from family members and the general public and have been forced to flee their homes due to concerns for their safety.

Nobody should ever have to face such treatment

When I read the details of what took place on 27 January, I was absolutely horrified and extremely angry. Nobody should ever have to face such humiliating, degrading and inhumane treatment because of their gender identity. It is truly abhorrent for anyone to have to experience this. Only yesterday (8th March 2018), The Jarkarta Post reported that trans people are being rounded up and thrown into detention centres in Indonesia, continuing the crackdown on the rights of trans people living there. That is why we must stand up and act. Now. Amnesty International believe the ill-treatment of these women amounts to torture; we need to make sure those responsible are held accountable for their actions.

Whilst an internal investigation by the Regional Aceh Police Force is underway, this is not enough. We want to ensure an independent, impartial and efficient investigation is carried out alongside the internal one and that the findings are made public and the perpetrators brought to justice. We want all victims to be provided with full reparations as well as effective protection from threats to their lives and safety. Finally, Indonesia's international human rights obligations should be respect and transphobia, gender based violence and criminalisation of individuals due to their gender expression, identity or sexual orientation should be prevented, investigated and eliminated.

Take action with us. You can print off the letter we’ve prepared for you to send to the authorities here (addresses included). Please send all of your appeals before 4 April 2018.

You can also view the full Urgent Action file here.


Why not join Amnesty UK's LGBTI Network? Help us fight for the rights of LGBTI people. 


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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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