Trans Indonesians are being forced into torturous exorcisms in a cruel attempt to ‘save’ them from their gender


Trans people in Indonesia are being forced into torturous exorcisms to “cure” them of their “gender disease”.

Although the south east Asian country is a Muslim-majority nation, Indonesians are reportedly employing traditional tribal animist and shamanist beliefs to drive LGBT+ people from society.

Queer people are widely regarded as “sexual deviants” and it is thought in Indonesia that being gay or trans is the result of a person being possessed by evil spirits. These can supposedly be expelled through religious ceremony and prayer – often performed with horrific cruelty.

“It’s traumatising – the horror of that memory stays in my head,” ‘Andin’, a 31-year-old transgender woman told The Bangkok Post.

She endured two decades of harassment and abuse as her family desperately tried to “cure” her, which ranged from being bombarded with Koranic verses while trapped in a locked room for days, to being doused with freezing water by an imam.

All of it paled in comparison to the exorcism she was forced into. Andin was taken against her will to a strange religious guru near her hometown of Medan in Sumatra, who gave her a stark choice: relinquish life as a woman, or go to hell.

She endured the treatment, but was left with the enduring mental trauma. “Nothing changed after the exorcism,” she said. “I’m still LGBT+, but my family didn’t give up easily.”

‘Dinda’, a 34-year-old lesbian, told The Bangkok Post that she too had been forced into an exorcism against her will after being tricked into attending a family reunion.

“My mom believed I was possessed by ghosts and that if I didn’t have an exorcism then the evil spirits would stay with me,” she recalled.

“I get shivers every time my mum calls me. And I see the exorcist in my dreams. It left me very scared.”

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Muslim protesters march against the LGBT+ community in Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, in 2017. (Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty)

Although homosexuality is technically legal in all but one province, Indonesia is becoming increasingly intolerant of the LGBT+ community after undergoing a strong conservative shift in recent years.

Exorcisms and other forms of torturous conversion therapy are likely to pay a key role in future if the so-called ‘Family Resilience’ bill is passed.

The bill plans to ban homosexuality and S&M sex, with offenders to be threatened with losing custody of their children.

Under the proposed law, anyone “suffering” from “sexual deviations” would be required to report themselves to rehab facilities for treatment.

While a vocal minority of LGBT+ advocates have raised strong opposition, lawmakers have doubled down on the bill and the newly-elected vice president, Ma’ruf Amin, openly supports the criminalisation of LGBT+ people.