Transgender women in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province are losing their jobs and incomes in the wake of police raids that saw several beauty salons shut down.
Several salons in northern Aceh remain closed more than a month after the raids, and some trans women who worked there have fled to Jakarta in fear.
Other salons are still open but have virtually lost all their customers.
In Jakarta too, transgender women last week were reportedly rounded up and sent to rehabilitation centres to correct their “social dysfunctional traits”.
Transgender people are known as “waria” in the Indonesian language, from the words wanita and pria — meaning man and woman.
One such waria, Adel, said she was beaten by police during the recent raids in Aceh, and feared for her safety if she returned to the salon she runs at Lhokseumawe.
“I don’t think I can work in a salon just yet, because I’m still too scared,” she said.
Aceh is the only Indonesian province where Sharia law is in place.
‘We just want to live peacefully’
At least five salons were raided in Lhokseumawe and Lhoksukon, and 12 waria were ordered to strip off their dresses and makeup and behave like men.
Two salons at Lhoksukon remain open but the waria have been given strict orders to work as men.
But because Sharia law bans men from touching women who are not related, they have all but lost their customers.
“We haven’t had any customers since the raids,” Bella said.
“I am the only one supporting my family, but until now we have had no customers. I can no longer help my parents in the village.
“We don’t know what the future will bring. We just want to live peacefully in Aceh.”
The policeman who led the raids brought four of the waria to his office when the ABC visited Aceh earlier this month. But they were too intimidated to speak freely.
Police superintendent Untung Sangaji Suryanata said hardline Muslim groups were threatening to harm the waria, so he acted.