Police in Indonesia’s Lampung province were caught on video arresting and humiliating three transgender women, known as waria, the latest incident of rising state-sanctioned violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia.
On November 2, municipal police conducted an anti-LGBT raid on the beach in Labuhan Jukung, Lampung on the island of Sumatra and arrested three warias: Robiansyah, Yogi Pranata and Julius. The officers brought them to the local government building where they were given “Islamic guidance” and then hosed down outdoors from a fire truck. The officials reported in a WhatsApp message that it was a form of mandi wajib – an Islamic bathing ritual to cleanse oneself after sexual intercourse.
Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of intimidation, humiliation, and arbitrary arrest of LGBT people ever since Aceh, the only province that officially imposes Sharia, began in October 2015 to enforce their Islamic criminal code, which criminalizes same-sex relations. The anti-LGBT campaign intensified nationally in early 2016 when top government officials issued anti-LGBT statements. Now more local governments, such as in West Java, are drafting ordinances to criminalize same-sex relations.
On October 31, municipal police in West Sumatra arrested 10 women suspected of being lesbians after a police trawl of Facebook found photos of two of them kissing and hugging. Such discriminatory anti-LGBT actions will doubtlessly escalate unless the authorities act against the police responsible.
The group Forum Waria in Jakarta estimates at least 4,500 new warias came to Jakarta over the last three years, some of whom are displaced due to growing hostility against them in their home provinces. The newcomers are typically jobless, some having lost hair salons and other small businesses back home. Safe places to organize HIV counseling and treatment for LGBT people are also disappearing, heightening concerns among health workers about combating Indonesia’s spike in HIV among men who have sex with men.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo and provincial governors have a responsibility to speak out in support of the threatened LGBT community and defuse the “moral panic” underlying much of the violence and discrimination. When local authorities, like the municipal police in Lampung, fail to protect the rights of these minorities, Indonesia’s leaders need to step in and hold them to account.