Trans women arrested for ‘cross-dressing’ in Indonesia

Police arrested the women after receiving complaints from residents who felt they had tainted Islamic Sharia law.

The women were detained in the beauty salons where they work in the city of Meulaboh, after locals accused them of prostitution and breaking Sharia law, reports Rappler.

Others were arrested at a local contraceptive store.

“They, these transgenders, were caught for violating Islamic Sharia law, but they are not violating Qanun Aceh (local bylaw),” head of West Aceh Sharia police Ika Suhannas said on of the arrests.

However, police found no evidence of prostitution and later revealed that their main reason for arresting the women was to convey the transphobic attitude of the local area.

“Their activities caused public unrest because they hung out until midnight wearing female outfits even when they’re male,” Suhannas said.

“These activities caused public unrest and residents told us to take action.”

Suhannas said he already asked the women to dress “like men and work according to their skill” – or risk arrest.

“When we asked them to return back as men, they said they could not do it because it is their soul,” Suhannas said.

“But we hope if they are persistent (in doing this), then they should return to their hometown.”

The women were later released, after promising to leave area and return to their hometowns in the surrounding Aceh region.

Aceh is the only province in the Muslim-majority country that operates strict Sharia law.

Gay sex is punishable in the region by a hundred lashes – after a controversial new law was introduced last year.

The law states anyone engaging in homosexuality should be punished with 100 months in jail, 100 lashes, or a fine equivalent to 1,000 grammes of gold.

Homosexuality is legal in the rest of Indonesia, though the age of consent for gay sex is higher than for straight sex.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population – but outside of the Aceh, most practice a more moderate form of the faith.