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Indonesian rights groups cry foul over detention of transgender woman in male jail cell

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Nov 27, 2020 9:05 am

The Indonesian trans community and its supporters were outraged that transgender woman Millen Cyrus was placed in a male detention facility earlier today, November 27. The confinement, they said, was a stark manifestation of the police’s disrespect for the country’s LGBTQ citizens.

Cyrus is a 21-year-old model and social media influencer with one million followers on Instagram. She and a male friend were arrested for alleged drug abuse during a raid in a hotel in Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta on November 22. 

In an interview with Indonesian news portal Detik, Tanjung Priok Port Police Chief Ahrie Sonta said Cyrus was detained in a male jail cell based on the “sex written on her citizen’s identity card” which was indicated as male.

Cyrus, on the other hand, told the news portal on Tuesday, “I hope there is a way for me … not to be put into the men’s cell.”

The country’s transgender community and Human Rights Commission were quick to defend Cyrus, stressing that the authorities’ maltreatment of trans women have been a recurring problem in their Muslim-majority country.

“I have contacted the National Police Law Division, who has promised to forward our request to Tanjung Priok police chief to move [Cyrus] to a women’s cell,” tweeted Beka Ulung Hapsara, a commissioner at the Human Rights Commission.

Cyrus was consequently transferred to a special cell where she is detained alone. Investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, activists continue to stand their ground on the issue, saying that authorities should reexamine their unjust treatment of trans women detainees.

“When a trans woman is enmeshed in a legal proceeding, I personally think that she should be detained in a women’s cell, and I believe that the other women in the cell wouldn’t be opposed to this. Placing Millen in a men’s detention cell is a big mistake and a sign of insensitivity from the police to gender diversity,” said Jakarta-based trans rights activist Anggun Pradesha.

“Indonesia lacks women’s prisons, and in some cases, female detainees are placed in the same cells with male detainees. Trans women detainees or prisoners need to be placed in different cells than men to prevent sexual harassment and bullying,” said Mariana Amiruddin, a commissioner at the country’s National Commission on Violence Against Women.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but still considered a taboo, so much so that in 2018, 12 trans women were arrested by the police “for no reasons whatsoever,” said Naila Rizqi Zakiah, advocacy officer at Jakarta Feminist group. “Their heads were later shaved and they were forced to strip naked.”

Source: South China Morning Post

Photos from Millen Cyrus Instagram account.