Police in Indonesia’s sharia-ruled province of Aceh said Tuesday they had released 12 transgender women after they agreed to act and dress as men.
Police raided beauty salons where the women worked in North Aceh district on Sunday after some parents complained that their teenage sons had been seduced by them, local police chief Ahmad Untung Surianata said.
The women were shaved, made to dress as men and were given Islamic lectures before they were released on Monday evening, Surianata said.
“We helped them to return to their nature as men and it turned out that they were actually macho,” the police chief said.
“They are happy now because before they were lost in their false identity,” he added.
Commenting on criticism by human rights groups about the treatment of the women, he said: “We do what we have to do according to the laws.”
Surianata made a name for himself after he was involved in a gunfight with Islamist militants during a bomb and gun attack in central Jakarta in 2016 while he was serving in the capital. That attack claimed eight lives, including four militants.
The police chief said the group would be allowed to return to work at beauty salons and would be given training to improve their skills, provided they dress as men.
Aceh is the only Indonesian province allowed to impose sharia as part of the central government’s attempts to appease a drive for independence in the region.
Elsewhere in Indonesia, sexual minorities have also been subjected to discrimination. Police in the country’s two largest cities have raided gay clubs and briefly detained dozens of people suspected of engaging in gay prostitution.
The government has also sought to block gay-friendly mobile apps that it says promote “sexual deviance.”