Indonesian police order transgender beauty workers to practice 'macho shouting'

Indonesian police order transgender beauty workers to practice 'macho shouting'

The Indonesian police chief who led humiliating raids against transgender beauty workers says he has re-educated them by making them dress in male clothing and "yell like men".


Key points:

  • The transgender beauty workers were made to wear men's clothes, trained to sound masculine
  • Re-education aimed at protecting transgender people from conservative Islamic organisations, police say
  • Politicians this week agreed on draft legislation that will criminalise gay sex and sex between unmarried couples


Just days after he ordered a group of 12 trans women to be stripped of their clothes and have their heads shaved in front of a laughing mob, North Aceh police chief Untung Sangaji ordered them back to his office to practice "macho shouting".

Deputy Police Commissioner Sangaji sent the ABC video of a "re-education" meeting showing he and the trans women shouting "good morning" together.

"We changed their clothes. They were wearing dresses," he said.

"I bought them shirts and asked them to yell. At first it sounded feminine, but then it sounds better.

"Then our preacher gave them a sermon."

The raids are the latest example of Indonesia's growing religious conservatism.

Just this week politicians agreed on draft legislation that will criminalise gay sex and sex between unmarried couples.

Deputy Police Commissioner Sangaji told the ABC it was better that the raids were conducted by police rather than by conservative Islamic organisations like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

"Rather than being raided and burned by those people, it's better we take action and secure them," he said.

"I put a police line around the house and told people that no-one is allowed to touch the house or it would be considered a crime."

He said he ordered the raids because local parents had complained their sons were visiting beauty salons run by the transgender women.

"We pick them up and re-educate them," Deputy Chief Commissioner Sangaji said.

"We check their voice, check their way of walking and check their clothes too. We stop them wearing dresses — they are men."

Mr Sangaji is a hero in Indonesia for his role in taking on terrorists in Jakarta in January 2016.

The white-suited officer was off-duty when he ran at a group of terrorists who had attacked a Starbucks Cafe, firing at them with his handgun.

But the transgender raids may have gone too far even for Aceh, which enforces sharia law and punishes so-called moral offences like gay sex, adultery and gambling with public caning.

Mr Sangaji faces a police internal affairs inquiry for publicly humiliating the women.

Indonesia's national police spokesman said the investigation would determine whether the police actions in North Aceh were right or wrong.

"If we find enough criminal evidence we will do firm corrections," National Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said.

Re-education aim at protecting trans women, police say

Deputy Police Commissioner Sangaji told the ABC that the trans women, who are known as waria (literally woman/man) in Indonesia, are a dangerous threat to Aceh.

"People don't want the transvestite population to grow like in other areas," he said.

"North Aceh, as the verandah of Mecca, is the barometer for Islam in Indonesia that has to be enforced. What can we do? We have to respect it and avoid a growing deviant population."

Mr Sangaji said the waria would be allowed to continue working in their salons as long as they did not wear women's dresses.

"Otherwise we would have a dilemma. The FPI and other mass organisations don't like that kind of life — they don't like men having a relationship with men."

The ABC asked Deputy Police Commissioner Sangaji: "I thought it is your job to protect people against that kind of organisation?"

"We are protecting them by picking them up and re-educate them, isn't that good, helping them to be men again?"

He denied he was submitting to the pressure of the conservative Islamic groups.

"No, I don't submit to them, the proof is that I was able to take action and re-educate these people," he said.

"Submitting to them would be to let them have their way in attacking the transvestites."